Howard Fast

Howard Fast

Life and Literature in the Left Lane
Gerald Sorin
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/15/2012
Format: cloth 528 pages, 16 b&w illus.
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-00727-8
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Winner, 2012 National Jewish Book Awards
Silver 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).


"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

"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

"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

"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)

"Winner, 2012 National Jewish Book Awards, Biography, Autobiography, Memoir

Silver Medal winner, Biography category, 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards" —

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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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