This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for September 20, 2016: Raking Leaves

Sep. 20, 2016: birthday: Upton Sinclair

It’s the birthday of the writer Upton Sinclair (books by this author), born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1878. When he was 15 years old, he started supporting himself by writing dime novels, and he wrote pulp fiction to get himself through school. He went to Columbia University and wrote one novelette a week the whole time.

He got an assignment from a socialist weekly to investigate working conditions in the meatpacking industry. Horrified by what he saw in Chicago, he wrote The Jungle (1906). It kept getting rejected so he finally published it at his own expense. It was his sixth novel and his first successful one — a huge success. After The Jungle was published, President Roosevelt received a hundred letters a day demanding reforms in the industry. Upton Sinclair said, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

He used the proceeds from the novel to open a socialist colony in New Jersey. But when it burned down in a fire, he was poor again. He went on to write almost 100 books.

He said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”