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Upton Sinclair (Upton Beall Sinclair) Biography

(1878–1968), (Upton Beall Sinclair), The Jungle, The Profits of Religion, The Brass Check, Mammonart, Money Writes!

American novelist, born in Baltimore; he paid his way through the City College of New York by writing novels, an activity which also financed his graduate work at Columbia. His first major work was The Jungle (1906) in which he exposed the appalling conditions prevalent in the meat-packing industry and which resulted in legislation for reform. The novel also marked his first open and avowed commitment to the cause of socialism, closing as it does with a sequence celebrating the presidential campaign of Eugene V. Debs. The proceeds from the novel were used to found Helicon Hall, a utopian community for socialist living and education. His continuing commitment to socialist ideas shaped his writing and political activity for the next thirty years, producing a stream of novels and pamphlets which exposed the iniquities of American society. Of the non-fiction, perhaps The Profits of Religion (1918), The Brass Check (1919), Mammonart (1925), and Money Writes! (1927) were the most successful, whilst from the novels The Metropolis (1908), King Coal (1917), Oil! (1927), Boston (1928), and The Flivver King (1937) are the major achievements. King Coal is partly based on sworn testimony drawn from the Colorado coal strike enquiry of 191415, and tells of a college boy's experience of mining work and his subsequent agitation for improved working conditions and union representation. Oil! reveals the corruption within the oil industry, politics, and public life, and ends with the hero ‘Bunny’ Ross's realization that only socialism can cure society's ills. Sinclair moved to California in 1915, and later, in 1934, he campaigned for the governorship of the state, and was a leading figure in the EPIC (End Poverty in California) Coalition in the Depression years. World's End (1940) was to be the first of a series of ten novels recounting in international terms the state of politics from 1913 up to and including the 1940s. The protagonist Lanny Budd, after whom the sequence is sometimes named, is also the hero of the sequel, The Return of Lanny Budd (1953). Sinclair produced well over 100 books which sold in millions world-wide, and in his eighties published a selection of his correspondence, My Lifetime in Letters (1960), and an Autobiography (1962), which, despite the relative lack of acclaim in America, demonstrated the extraordinary range of his contacts. See also Proletarian Writing in the USA.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas; Septem contra Thebas) to Sir Walter Scott and Scotland