Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Upton Sinclair, resurrected

Upton Sinclair has received a fair measure of attention this year on the 100th anniversay of the publication of The Jungle.

Chris Bachelder did much more to celebrate the Pulitizer Prize-winning muckraker: he put Sinclair at the center of his book, U.S.!.

Jay Parini reviewed U.S.! for the Guardian. The review opens:
I've never been able to eat a sausage since, at the age of 15, I read Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle. "There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs," he wrote. "There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it." Sinclair was the ultimate muckraker, the scourge of capitalists and greedy politicians, and a vibrant man of the left, when there was a left. Now he's at the centre of a larky novel by Chris Bachelder.
Click here to read the rest of the review.

Justin Taylor reviewed U.S.! for Bookslut. His bottom line should suffice--"if I haven’t sold you on U.S.! yet, you’re obviously either some sort of fascist or else just tired of listening to me"--but here's a quality passage that nicely captures the book:
In Chris Bachelder's new novel, U.S.!, Upton Sinclair is the dark glass through which he sees. Equal parts troubling and funny, this book about the demise of the American Left and the increasingly Lear-like madness of the American Right is impressive and affecting, a deft mash-up of the real and the allegorical, the political and the pathetic (as in pathos, that is). U.S.! imagines an America where earnest muckraker and second-rate novelist Upton Sinclair is serially resurrected from the grave by a world that still needs him, only to be just as serially assassinated by that same world, which has no interest whatsoever in being told what it needs. Aided by a fragile, mostly broke, ever-shifting cadre of supporters (identifiable to one another primarily by their discreet red shovel tattoos), Sinclair travels the country preaching his gospel to both those with ears to hear; as well as those with mouths to heckle and fingers to squeeze triggers. He’s for socialism, temperance, abstinence, and the metric system. He makes points by using exclamation points. He thinks every social ill can be solved by writing a novel about it.
Click here to read the rest of the review.

To read an excerpt from U.S.!, click here.

Click here and here for previous items about The Jungle here on the blog.

--Marshal Zeringue