Radical Innocent (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
In the prologue to his biography of Upton Sinclair, Anthony Arthur notes that the string of failures after Sinclair’s astonishingly successful early novel, The Jungle (1906), made some people regard him as a one-book wonder. However, says Arthur, Sinclair eventually went on to have other successes, including a popular series of adventure novels that he wrote in his sixties and a near-win in the 1934 election for governor of California.
It is understandable that a biographer would try to see as much success as possible in his subject, and Arthur is especially committed to Sinclair’s late adventure novels, the Lanny Budd series (1940-1953), as evidence that Sinclair shifted in his later years from writing propaganda to being a writer of serious art. However, the Lanny Budd series, though popular in its day, soon went out of print, and at the beginning of the twenty-first century Sinclair, in fact, remained known almost exclusively as the author of The Jungle.
One interesting comment Arthur makes at the beginning of his biography is that the success of The Jungle was so sudden that Sinclair himself had trouble understanding it and attempted to explain it more than once in later years. It would be even more interesting to learn what those explanations were, or to hear an explanation from Arthur himself, but this is just one of the tantalizing moments in the biography that promises more than it delivers.
(The entire section is 1595 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Booklist 102, nos. 19/20 (June 1-15, 2006): 24.
Columbia Journalism Review 45, no. 2 (July/August, 2006): 58-60.
Kirkus Reviews 74, no. 6 (March 15, 2006): 269.
Library Journal 131, no. 7 (April 15, 2006): 85.
National Review 58, no. 15 (August 28, 2006): 45-46.
The New York Times Book Review 155 (July 2, 2006): 10-11.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 11 (March 13, 2006): 50.
The Wall Street Journal 247, no. 135 (June 10, 2006): P8.
(The entire section is 43 words.)