CARL SANDBURG by Penelope Niven

CARL SANDBURG

A Biography

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Sandburg's long life (1878-1967) illustrates the great American success story: Emerging from an austere Swedish immigrant background, through work, discipline, clean living, and high thinking he achieved fame, love, power, and money, and was identified at his death, at age 89, with the voice of America. This massive authorized biography, from first-time author Niven, is comprehensive, factual, and sentimental, and captures the ``honey'' and ``salt'' that Sandburg found in his life. Starting as a hobo (as he claimed at heart he remained), Sandburg had a varied and demanding literary career: years as a journalist in Chicago, volumes of poetry, the best-selling Lincoln biography, songs, children's stories, novels, platform lectures (at which he excelled), radio and film scripts (The Greatest Story Ever Told), recordings, and the text to The Family of Man--Edward Steichen's renowned photographic exhibit. Committed to the crude, virile, simple, and passionate life of the laboring classes, he nevertheless befriended movie stars (Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe), Presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson), and a glittering array of poets (Eliot, Auden, Pound, Frost, Wallace Stevens), and performed wherever he was invited (on the Milton Berle show, the Library of Congress, and nearly all the major universities in the country). He married into the creative Steichen family, finding in Paula his ideal mate to whom, Niven argues, he remained faithful for nearly 60 years. Of their three daughters, one became a writer, and the other two remained at home with Paula, who raised goats at Connemara, the farm they purchased in North Carolina--now a tourist attraction. For such a voluble man, Sandburg was personally reticent. Niven's study, then, is by necessity a chronicle of events, dates, places, awards, names, reviews, political and literary activities, and poems that she interprets with tact and appreciation. It vindicates Paula's observation to the insecure young poet: ``The life we live is more important than the works we achieve. You are the Achievement.'' (Two eight-page photo inserts--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1991
ISBN: 0-684-19251-9
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991




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