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Book Club
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News Mon Aug 07 2006

Back to The Jungle

I heard an unconfirmed rumor that the Fall 2006 selection for One Book, One Chicago may be Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which the Gapers Block Book Club read last year. True or not, the official announcement for the next pick for the citywide book club is due later this month, so we'll have to wait and see.

In case you didn't know, 2006 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Jungle, so the book has been receiving much renewed attention this year.

Last month in Slate, Karen Olsson wondered how well the novel has held up over the past century:

"But for all its packaging, the book still carries a whiff of homework, and if we already dutifully absorbed the idea that the turn-of-century meat industry was brutal and exploitative as adolescents, what's to be gained from reading it again?"

The Nation reviews two new biographies of Upton Sinclair and examines Sinclair's significance:

"One hundred years ago, Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, his gut-churning exposé of the meatpacking industry that schoolchildren still read today in their history classes. A well-merchandized sensation, it sold 100,000 copies in the first year, millions after that, was almost immediately translated into seventeen languages, spurred an uptick in vegetarianism, greased the way for the Meat Inspection and Pure Food and Drug acts, and transformed its 27-year-old Socialist author into a celebrity."

And The Guardian gets in on the act, providing some of the historical context of the novel's publication:

"It is difficult to think of a book, let alone a novel, that has forced the state to respond in such a comprehensive manner. And yet, while Sinclair was delighted with both sales and fame, it was not quite the response that he intended. He had dedicated the book to the "Workingmen of America" and had set out to make an emotional appeal to the nation over the plight of the working poor and the prospects of a socialist alternative. Instead he had generated a public panic about food quality."

If you missed reading the The Jungle last year for the GB Book Club, now may be the perfect time to pick it up.

 
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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

Editor: Andrew Huff, ah@gapersblock.com
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