Vachel Lindsay (1879–1931) was the most intensely romantic US poet of his generation. Less well known is the fact that Lindsay was also a radical critic of the white supremacy, greed, misery, brutality, ugliness, and emptiness inherent in US capitalist culture. His only novel, The Golden Book—now back in print after over 80 years of shameful neglect—is a relentless dreamer's all-out assault on the stupidity and bigotry of Main Street USA. Lindsay's Luciferian lyricism, incantatory and even shamanic; the carnivalesque enthusiasm and humor that he called the "higher vaudeville"; and of course that zany, jubilant, self-contradictory mysticism that was all his own are amply evident in this radically nonconformist dram of the future. In The Golden Book, the coffee houses, movie theaters, streets, and parks of Springfield in the "Mystic Year" 2018 are the settings for a valiant struggle to transform a village dominated by shady politicians, lynch-mobs, commercialism, and cocaine into a new paradise. Ron Sakolsky's superb introduction, the most detailed examination yet of Lindsay's "Johnny Appleseed utopianism," explores The Golden Book as a radical response to the Springfield Race Riot of 1908; relates the book to the utopias of Fourier, Ruskin, Bellamy, and others; and traces Lindsay's involvement in Chicago radicalism in the 1910s, as well as his affinities with anarchism, feminism, Black liberation, the IWW, and such poet radicals as Blake, Lautreamont, the surrealists, Langston Hughes, and the Beats.
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