Among the American avant-garde of the early twentieth century, Floyd Dell played a distinctive role. A boy from the Midwest who rose to influence in the Chicago Literary Renaissance and in the heyday of Greenwich Village radicalism, he became a celebrated novelist, critic, editor (of The Masses), poet, and playwright. Dell was also a notorious bohemian, proponent of free love, and champion of feminism, progressive education, socialism, and Freudianism. His love affairs earned him almost as much notoriety as his writings. His friends and colleagues included many of the great figures of the era: radical journalists John Reed and Max Eastman; the Christian Socialist Dorothy Day; novelists Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, and Sherwood Anderson; and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Yet no figure was more colorful and brilliant than Dell himself. Better than anyone, he epitomized the high spirits and towering ambitions of American culture in the early decades of the century. Douglas Clayton's biography of Dell, the first full-length life, captures the remarkable accomplishments and contradictions of a man who was both central to radical culture and profoundly skeptical of it. An early escapee from Marxism, his career never followed the familiar left-to-right course. But Dell struggled all his life with the relationship between politics and art, which makes his life so arresting and relevant today. With 8 pages of photographs.
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Douglas Clayton has taught literature at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is now humanities editor at the University of Nebraska Press.
Revealing, fascinating...there is a sense of the real past here. More important, there is a real sense of the present revealed to us in that past. -- Dan Jaffe * American Studies * This is sure to become the standard for any work on a classic American radical! -- Elliott Shore * Journal of American History * Dell deserves the intelligent, sympathetic, yet probing treatment Clayton has given him in this highly readable book. -- William L. O'Neill, Professor of History, Rutgers University; author of <I>Coming Apart<I> Not only a perceptive analysis, but a thoughtful reflection...There's much to be learned here. -- Daniel Aaron Mr. Clayton builds a skillful intellectual portrait of one of America's radical literary figures. -- Douglas A. Silva * The New York Times *
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