Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr. (1878-09-20–1968-11-25) was a prolific American author who wrote in many genres, often advocating Socialist views, and achieved considerable popularity in the first half of the twentieth century.
- See also: The Jungle (1906)
- What life means to me is to put the content of Shelley into the form of Zola. The proletarian writer is a writer with a purpose; he thinks no more of "art for art's sake" than a man on a sinking ship thinks of painting a beautiful picture in the cabin; he thinks of getting ashore — and then there will be time enough for art.
- Cosmopolitan (October 1906)
- Let us redeem our great words from base uses. Let that no longer call itself Love, which knows that it is not free!
- Love's Pilgrimage (1911)
- I know you are brave and unselfish people, making sacrifices for a great principle but I cannot join you. I believe in the present effort which the allies are making to suppress German militarism. I would approve of America going to their assistance. I would enlist to that end, if ever there be a situation where I believe I could do more with my hands than I could with my pen.
- Letter to the Anti-Enlistment League (1915-09-20)
- I have lived in Germany and know its language and literature, and the spirit and ideals of its rulers. Having given many years to a study of American capitalism, I am not blind to the defects of my own country; but, in spite of these defects, I assert that the difference between the ruling class of Germany and that of America is the difference between the seventeenth century and the twentieth. No question can be settled by force, my pacifist friends all say. And this in a country in which a civil war was fought and the question of slavery and secession settled! I can speak with especial certainty of this question, because all my ancestors were Southerners and fought on the rebel side; I myself am living testimony to the fact that force can and does settle questions — when it is used with intelligence. In the same way I say if Germany be allowed to win this war — then we in America shall have to drop every other activity and devote the next twenty or thirty years to preparing for a last-ditch defence of the democratic principle.
- Letter of resignation from the Socialist Party (September 1917)
- American capitalism is predatory, and American politics are corrupt: The same thing is true in England and the same in France; but in all these three countries the dominating fact is that whatever the people get ready to change the government, they can change it. The same thing is not true of Germany, and until it was made true in Germany, there could be no free political democracy anywhere else in the world — to say nothing of any free social democracy. My revolutionary friends who will not recognize this fact seem to me like a bunch of musicians sitting down to play a symphony concert in a forest where there is a man-eating tiger loose. For my part, much as I enjoy symphony concerts, I want to put my fiddle away in its case and get a rifle and go out and settle with the tiger.
- I am a person who has never used violence himself. My present opinion is that people who have obtained the ballot should use it and solve their problems in that way. In the case of peoples who have not obtained the ballot, and who cannot control their states, I again find in my own mind a division of opinion, which is not logical, but purely a rough practical judgment. My own forefathers got their political freedom by violence; that is to say, they overthrew the British crown and made themselves a free Republic. Also by violence they put an end to the enslavement of the black race on this continent.
- Interview with Rene Fulop-Miller (1923-03-24)
- All art is propaganda. It is universally and inescapably propaganda; sometimes unconsciously, but often deliberately, propaganda.
- Mammonart - an Essay in Economic Interpretation Ch. 2 Who Owns the Artists? (1925)
- I am not a giant physically; I shrink from pain and filth and vermin and foul air, like any other man of refinement; also, I freely admit, when I see a line of a hundred policeman with drawn revolvers flung across a street to keep anyone from coming on to private property to hear my feeble voice. But I have a conscience and a religious faith, and I know that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice.
- Letter to the Los Angeles Chief of Police (1928-04-07)
- I wrote with tears and anguish, pouring into the pages all that pain which life had meant to me. Externally the story had to do with a family of stockyard workers, but internally it was the story of my own family. Did I wish to know how the poor suffered in winter time in Chicago? I only had to recall the previous winter in the cabin, when we had only cotton blankets, and had rags on top of us. It was the same with hunger, with illness, with fear. Our little boy was down with pneumonia that winter, and nearly died, and the grief of that went into the book.
- On his writing of The Jungle, in American Outpost: A Book of Reminiscences (1932)
- I used to say to our audiences: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
- I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked (1935), ISBN 0-520-08198-6; repr. University of California Press, 1994, p. 109.
- Fascism is capitalism plus murder.
- Presidential Agent II (1944), ISBN 1-93131-318-0
- The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to 'End Poverty in California' I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.
- Letter to Norman Thomas (1951-09-25)
- I just put on what the lady says. I've been married three times, so I've had lots of supervision.
- Interview in The New York Times (1962-09-07)
- He was burning with a sense of outrage. He had been tricked and made a fool of; he had been used and flung aside. And now there was nothing he could do — he was utterly helpless. What affected him most was his sense of the overwhelming magnitude of the powers which had made him their puppet; of the utter futility of the efforts that he or any other man could make against them. They were like elemental, cosmic forces; they held all the world in their grip, and a common man was as much at their mercy as a bit of chaff in a tempest.
- A new burst of rage swept over him — What did it matter whether it was true or not — whether anything was true or not? What did it matter if anybody had done all the hideous and loathsome things that everybody else said they had done? It was what everybody was saying! It was what everybody believed — what everybody was interested in! It was the measure of a whole society — their ideals and their standards! It was the way they spent their time, repeating nasty scandals about each other; living in an atmosphere of suspicion and cynicism, with endless whispering and leering, and gossip of low intrigue.
- I'm going to stop squandering money for things I don't want. I'm going to stop accepting invitations, and meeting people I don't like and don't want to know. I've tried your game — I've tried it hard, and I don't like it; and I'm going to get out before it's too late. I'm going to find some decent and simple place to live in; and I'm going down town to find out if there isn't some way in New York for a man to earn an honest living!
The Profits of Religion (1918)
- There is, I discover, a regular propaganda on foot; a long time ago — no man can recall how far back — the Wholesale Pickpockets made the discovery of the ease with which a man's pockets could be rifled while he was preoccupied with spiritual exercises, and they began offering prizes for the best essays in support of the practice.
- I discover that hardly a week passes that some one does not start a new cult, or revive an old one;
- Man is an evasive beast, given to cultivating strange notions about himself. He is humiliated by his simian ancestry, and tries to deny his animal nature, to persuade himself that he is not limited by its weaknesses nor concerned in its fate. And this impulse may be harmless, when it is genuine. But what are we to say when we see the formulas of heroic self-deception made use of by unheroic self-indulgence? What are we to say when we see asceticism preached to the poor by fat and comfortable retainers of the rich? What are we to say when we see idealism become hypocrisy, and the moral and spiritual heritage of mankind twisted to the knavish purposes of class-cruelty and greed? What I say is — Bootstrap-lifting!
- The first thing brought forth by the study of any religion, ancient or modern, is that it is based upon Fear.
- Book One : The Great Fear
The Brass Check (1919)
- Journalism is one of the devices whereby industrial autocracy keeps its control over political democracy; it is the day-by-day, between-elections propaganda, whereby the minds of the people are kept in a state of acquiescence, so that when the crisis of an election comes, they go to the polls and cast their ballots for either one of the two candidates of their exploiters.
- The methods by which the "Empire of Business" maintains its control over journalism are four: First, ownership of the papers; second, ownership of the owners; third, advertising subsidies; and fourth, direct bribery. By these methods there exists in America a control of news and of current comment more absolute than any monopoly in any other industry.
- The reader will understand that I despise these "yellows"; they are utterly without honor, they are vulgar and cruel; and yet, in spite of all their vices, I count them less dangerous to society than the so-called "respectable" papers, which pretend to all the virtues, and set the smug and pious tone for good society--papers like the "New York Tribune" and the "Boston Evening Transcript" and the "Baltimore Sun," which are read by rich old gentlemen and maiden aunts, and can hardly ever be forced to admit to their columns any new or vital event or opinion. These are "kept" papers, in the strictest sense of the term, and do not have to hustle on the street for money. They serve the pocketbooks of the whole propertied class--which is the meaning of the term "respectability" in the bourgeois world. On the other hand the "yellow" journals, serving their own pocketbooks exclusively, will often print attacks on vested wealth, provided the attacks are startling and sensational, and provided the vested wealth in question is not a heavy advertiser.
- In the course of my twenty years career as an assailant of special privilege, I have attacked pretty nearly every important interest in America. The statements I have made, if false, would have been enough to deprive me of a thousand times all the property I ever owned, and to have sent me to prison for a thousand times a normal man's life. I have been called a liar on many occasions, needless to say; but never once in all these twenty years has one of my enemies ventured to bring me into a court of law, and to submit the issue between us to a jury of American citizens.
- When Mr. John P. Gavit, managing editor of the New York Evening Post, wrote to Mr. Melville E. Stone, general manager of the Associated Press, that I had a reputation "as an insatiable hunter of personal publicity," what Mr. Gavit meant was that I was accustomed to demand and obtain more space in newspapers than the amount of my worldly possessions entitled me to.
100%: the Story of a Patriot (1920)
- Now and then it occurs to one to reflect upon what slender threads of accident depend the most important circumstances of his life; to look back and shudder, realizing how close to the edge of nothingness his being has come.
- Section 1
- An event of colossal and overwhelming significance may happen all at once, but the words which describe it have to come one by one in a long chain
- Section 2
- Wherever there was a group of people, and a treasure to be administered, there Peter knew was backbiting and scandal and intriguing and spying, and a chance for somebody whose brains were "all there."
- Section 2
- It was cold and clammy in the stone cell; they called it the "cooler," and used it to reduce the temperature of the violent and intractable. It was a trouble-saving device; they just left the man there and forgot him, and his own tormented mind did the rest.
- Section 4
- I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.
- On his novel "The Jungle" (1906)
- The private control of credit is the modern form of slavery.
- I never met a Socialist, or a Socialist cause, that I didn't like.
Quotes about Sinclair
- What Fielding was to the eighteenth century and Dickens to the nineteenth. Sinclair is to our own. The overwhelming knowledge and passionate expression of specific wrongs are more stirring, more interesting, and also more taxing than the cynical censure of Fielding and the sentimental lamentations of Dickens.
- Review of Oil (1927) in The Nation (1927-12-05)
- I look upon Upton Sinclair as one of the greatest novelists in the world, the Zola of America.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Our African Winter (1929)
- I did not want to say these unpleasant things, but you have written to me, asking my opinion, and I give it to you, flat. If you would get over two ideas — first that any one who criticizes you is an evil and capitalist-controlled spy, and second that you have only to spend a few weeks on any subject to become a master of it — you might yet regain your now totally lost position as the leader of American socialistic journalism.
- You protest, and with justice, each time Hitler jails an opponent; but you forget that Stalin and company have jailed and murdered a thousand times as many. It seems to me, and indeed the evidence is plain, that compared to the Moscow brigands and assassins, Hitler is hardly more than a common Ku Kluxer and Mussolini almost a philanthropist.
- H. L. Mencken, letter published in The American Mercury (June 1936)
- I have regarded you, not as a novelist, but as an historian; for it is my considered opinion, unshaken at 85, that records of fact are not history. They are only annals, which cannot become historical until the artist-poet-philosopher rescues them from the unintelligible chaos of their actual occurrence and arranges them in works of art. When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to your novels. They object that the people in your books never existed; that their deeds were never done and their sayings never uttered. I assure them that they were, except that Upton Sinclair individualized and expressed them better than they could have done, and arranged their experiences, which as they actually occurred were as unintelligible as pied type, in significant and intelligible order.
- I have never known a novel that was good enough to be good in spite of its being adapted to the author’s political views.