Howard Fast

Howard Fast

Life and Literature in the Left Lane
Gerald Sorin
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/05/2012
Format: Hardback 16 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00727-8
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Winner, 2012 National Jewish Book AwardsSilver Medal, 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards

Howard Fast's life, from a rough-and-tumble Jewish New York street kid to the rich and famous author of close to 100 books, rivals the Horatio Alger myth. Author of bestsellers such as Citizen Tom Paine, Freedom Road, My Glorious Brothers, and Spartacus, Fast joined the American Communist Party in 1943 and remained a loyal member until 1957, despite being imprisoned for contempt of Congress. Gerald Sorin illuminates the connections among Fast's Jewishness, his writings, and his left-wing politics and explains Fast’s attraction to the Party and the reasons he stayed in it as long as he did. Recounting the story of his private and public life with its adventure and risk, love and pain, struggle, failure, and success, Sorin also addresses questions such as the relationship between modern Jewish identity and radical movements, the consequences of political myopia, and the complex interaction of art, popular culture, and politics in 20th-century America.

Author Bio

Gerald Sorin is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American and Jewish Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is author of Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent, winner of the 2003 National Jewish Book Award in History and The Prophetic Minority: American Jewish Immigrant Radicals, 1880-1920 (IUP, 1985).


“Sorin brings Fast's personality to life in a way that is both sympathetic and critical. The narrative is fluid and engaging.”
 — Tony Michels, author of A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York

“An engaging account of Fast that pays attention not only to his politics but also to his writings. . . . It should stimulate discussion of the appeal of Communism for some American Jews in the mid-20th century.”
 — Deborah Dash Moore, coeditor of Gender and Jewish History

“Winner, 2012 National Jewish Book Awards, Biography, Autobiography, Memoir Silver Medal winner, Biography category, 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards”

“From a rough-and-tumble Jewish New York street kid to the rich and famous author of close to 100 books, this biography illuminates the connections among Fast's Jewishness, his writings, and his left-wing politics, and explains Fast’s attraction to the Communist Party.”

“Fame-hungry, wealth-obsessed, with a voracious appetite for women, bestselling author Howard Fast rose from the hardscrabble streets of his 1920s New York childhood to become a popular author and, perhaps more improbably, ‘the public face of the Communist Party in America.’ In Sorin's intriguing if dense new biography, Fast's life becomes an excellent prism through which to view the history of leftist activity in the years straddling WWII, along with the anticommunism hysteria of the 1940s and '50s. . . . A notable study of a thorny protagonist whose life has much to reveal about the times in which he lived and about the interplay of political belief, personal identity, art, and ambition.”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Sorin . . . has written a heavily researched critical biography of Fast. . . The volume's strength is its explication and analysis of the complex social and political context of Fast's activism and creative work. . . . Sorin's lengthy critique of Fast's adherence to Communism long after most American writers and intellectuals had abandoned the party, and his shameful public silence on Stalin's crimes and Soviet anti-Semitism, are of significant import. . . . Recommended. ”
 — Choice

“An intriguing biography, not least for its examination of how Fast interwove his political activism, his Jewishness and his art during the heyday of McCarthyism. Recommended.”
 — Recorder (Melbourne)

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Table of Contents

1 Paradise Postponed
Publish or Perish
Politics Delayed
2 The War Against Fascism
The Fatal Embrace
The Reds and the Blacks
3 The Life of the Party
Innocent Abroad
The Road Not Taken
The Politics of Literature
4 Cold War, Hot Seat
The Discouraged American
Down and Out in the USA
5 Banned, Barred, and Beseiged
It Can’t Happen Here
War and Peace
6 The Myopia of American Communism
Foley Square Follies
Waltzing at the Waldorf
April in Paris
The Poison of Peekskill
7 Literature and Reality
Howard Fast: Prisoner
Great Expectations
8 Free! But Not at Last
9 Trials and Tribulations
Despair, Distraction, and Defeat
The Push and Pull of Politics
Confrontations Left and Right
10 McCarthyism, Stalinism, and the World according to Fast
11 Culture and the Cold War
To Flee or not to Flee
An Even Brighter Star in the USSR
Signs of Thaw in the Cold War?
12 Things Fall Apart; the Left Doesn’t Hold
13 Fast Forward
14 Life in the Fast Lane
California to the New York Island
Looking Backward, Seeing Red
15 Fast and Loose
Disappointment and Despair
Fast in Pursuit
16 Fall and Decline

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