Songs and Stories
Bloomsbury USA, Paperback, 9781582346366, 304pp.
Publication Date: February 21, 2006
In this hilarious and wildly inventive novel, Chris Bachelder brings Upton Sinclair back from the dead to see what he might make of our modern world.
U.S. is a playful, darkly comic novel that imagines the serial resurrection and assassination of tireless muckraker Upton Sinclair. In Chris Bachelder's bizarre world, Sinclair is repeatedly brought back by beleaguered but optimistic leftists (whose refrain is "Hope and Shovels Forever"), and then gunned down (and once harpooned ) by those seeking fame, fortune, and American business as usual. As he grows more and more politically and culturally insignificant, Sinclair keeps writing his embarrassingly bad muckraking novels and keeps risking his life for the Socialist revolution, which is perpetually just around the corner.
In documenting the demise (but dogged faith) of the American Left, as well as the violence and hysteria of the Right, Bachelder uses a wide range of forms: stories, songs, letters, journal entries, book reviews, memos, a syllabus, newspaper and magazine articles, Internet auctions, and transcripts of talk shows, interviews, and toll-free hotlines. The second part of the novel is a fast-paced narrative that brings the myriad characters together in an explosive encounter. A dazzling mix of laughs and revelations, U.S. is not only an exploration of American politics and culture, but an investigation into the possibilities and problems of political art. Its publication will coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the publication of The Jungle, Sinclair's internationally renowned novel about the meat industry.
"Like the wonderful Bear vs. Shark, U.S.! is a mad contraption of a novel, an encyclopedia of all our rich American armamentarium of bullshit, cant, ad copy and hyperbole (including the blurbs on book jackets). But this one carries secret reserves of heartbreak and ruefulness that propel it farther and deeper into the reader's imagination. We need novelists like Chris Bachelder who can, with a microfine sense of humor and a tragic sense of history, almost make it all make sense. We're lucky to have him."