BEING RED by Howard Fast
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Cleareyed, sober, convincing account of an American working-class writer drawn into the Communist Party (1944-1957), of the witch hunts and terror sponsored by the US government, and of going to jail for zealous idealism. By the author of Citizen Tom Paine, Freedom Road, etc. Fast's autobiography joins Jack London's Martin Eden as a classic story of the birth of a self-educated writer, his grueling efforts to learn to write while in an abyss of poverty, his early rejections and then first sale--at 17--to Amazing Stories. By his 21st birthday, Fast had published three novels, trashed two others, and established himself with several sales to the slicks. But his reputation really bloomed with The Children, a short novel published in Story, about a black kid lynched in the Bronx: the magazine was banned throughout New England, and sales soared. By Fast's account, his Freedom Road (1944) became the largest-selling serious novel of the century--put into 86 languages, pirated and sold in countless millions in nearly 100 countries. This fame made him a target for the cultural division of the Communist Party, the main haven for US socialists. Feted in Hollywood by famous writers, actors, and artists who were party members, he at last joined--the CP was the only serious choice for one given to human rights, he says, and Russia was our ally at the time. Fast captures those years with tremendous warmth: ""But never--and I write this 36 years after I left the party--never did I hear, at any Communist Party meeting, that pervasive and unending slander, the overthrow of the government by force and violence. Never did I hear it mentioned or discussed, and if it had been, it would have been put down immediately as brainless nonsense."" He regards the 1100 pages of FBI notes on him (recovered through the Freedom of Information Act) as a testament ""proving that I had not lived a worthless existence but had done my best to help and nourish the poor and oppressed. . ."" The story of his vilification, imprisonment, and blacklisting by publishers is searing, his recovery by self. publishing Spartacus inspiring--as in his 56-year marriage, which survived much crunching, bashing, and suffering. Citizen Fast's masterpiece--and long life to it.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1990
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin