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U.S.!: Songs and Stories

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  419 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
In this hilarious and wildly inventive novel, Chris Bachelder brings Upton Sinclair back from the dead to see what he might make of our modern world.

U.S.! is a playful, darkly comic novel that imagines the serial resurrection and assassination of tireless muckraker Upton Sinclair. In Chris Bachelder's bizarre world, Sinclair is repeatedly brought back by beleaguered but op
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 21st 2006 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2006)
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MJ Nicholls
Aug 17, 2010 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
Original Review:

Touching satire about poor old utopian socialist Upton Sinclair and his habit of being shot and resurrected by avid left-wingers intent on egalitarianism. Bachelder is a keen Barthesian and uses playful PoMo techniques, among them lists of Sinclair’s unreviewed Amazon books, items listed on ebay, and assorted epistolary games. The first half of the novel has no structure as such, merely following Sinclair as he battles his hopeless but noble cause. The second half of the novel is
Jun 26, 2011 Rayroy rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-genre-its-own
Better then Bear V. Shark, the second part of the novel was brillant and fast paced! What makes U.S.! so good, is how well Chris Bachelder writes Upton Sinclar as a hopelessly opitmistic Socialist curseder, who's come back to life in persent day America, and is funny and very likeable to anyone that picks up U.S.! even if that person were Ayn Rand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jun 03, 2007 Trin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle and dozens of other books advocating socialism and social reform, is resurrected periodically to fight the good fight—resurrected and assassinated, both with bullets and bad press. This is not only an incredibly imaginative novel, it's an incredibly imaginative political novel, that touches on how hard it is to keep fighting for what you believe in such a fucked up world. The story is told first in fragments—snatches of narrative interspersed with letters a ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Bennet rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-stories
Too funny. Funny and smart. Probably not your thing if you don't appreciate politics at least in part for the irony, but a must-read for aspiring but lazy leftie do-gooders, naysayers and/or cranks like myself, especially if you've a soft spot somewhere for Upton Sinclair.

A cross of sorts between Philip Roth and Christopher Buckley, but wait, there's more, because he can also do the very different but comparably effective and moving Abbott Awaits A Novel (Yellow Shoe Fiction) by Chris BachelderAbbott Awaits: A Novel that I like just as much.

I'll now defe
Darrin Doyle
Apr 17, 2008 Darrin Doyle rated it it was amazing
An impressive book that takes a comical premise -- the left-wing keeps resurrecting Upton Sinclair, and he keeps getting assassinated -- and turns it into a smart, incisive satire with some pathos thrown in, too. Comparisons to Saunders are appropriate, but this is its own animal, and in lots of ways it surpasses Saunders, in my opinion.
Apr 13, 2009 Gabriel rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gabriel by: Mike Reynolds
On the surface, U.S.! is similar to Mark Binelli's Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die: a "real" re-imagined historical person(s) as subject of a crazy-quilt collage of forms.

Bachelder succeeds where Binelli falls short, partly because Bachelder doesn't ask the reader to superimpose his appropriated "character" onto a "real world" that exists only outside of the book. Everything that you need to know about Upton Sinclair (for this book to work) is right here. Binelli takes a more restrained, cautious r
Jul 21, 2007 Josh rated it it was amazing
Imagine if Upton Sinclair, the great Socialist novelist, author of The Jungle and 1934 Democratic candidate for Governor of California, were brought back to life today to comment on the modern world of strip malls, drug companies and high school wrestling. And then imagine if he were assassinated. And then imagine if he were brought back to life again, and then assassinated again, and then brought back to life…

OK. It’s not the most obvious premise for a novel.

But with U.S., Chris Bachelder makes
Ted Burke
Apr 03, 2010 Ted Burke rated it liked it
Chris Bachelder is a lovable prankster who likes to turn the nicely fitting glove of literature inside out. while the rest of us are looking for meanings and various forms of significance in the interior decorating of conventional fictional devices--to this day, we all yearn to have poets and novelists to tell us The Truth-- Bachelder prefers to spray paint on the props and show us the cluttered backstage of these settings. And better yet, he rather likes in tying the shoelaces together of the p ...more
Jeff Laughlin
Jul 22, 2007 Jeff Laughlin rated it really liked it
If I were forced to choose between the books this man has written, I couldn't. Reading this book makes one feel hopelessly lost yet eager and attentive simultaneously. Quite an accomplishment. I recommend the author HIGHLY.
Brent Legault
May 12, 2012 Brent Legault rated it it was ok
Wooden and weak and worst of all, dull. Much in the spirit of Upton Sinclair! I suggest you read the article that Bachelder published in The Believer ( It is far superior to this watery grave of a novel.
Jan 20, 2017 Sarahjane rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The tension between its reverence for those who believe in utopia and the recognition of the deadening effects of so much rhetoric, the language and sense of fun, the commitment to its ridiculous premise, everything.
Kevin Luy
Sep 15, 2016 Kevin Luy rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Funny and thoughtful.
It feels like the kind of political satire people give Chris Buckley credit for writing.
Fans of Vonnegut might like it for the humor and style.
The chapter about Sinclair and Doctorow's meeting is genius, and a pure delight.
Mar 03, 2008 Andy rated it liked it
This is a tough book to review. I really admire a lot of it. It's such a big, wacky premise: famed muckraker Upton Sinclair is repeatedly resurrected by liberal America in modern times to continue his lifelong fight against capitalism, seeking a socialist utopia in America. He becomes a cottage industry, where his ridiculous personal bibliography is revered by a select few and hated by almost everyone, and a cult of Sinclair assasins turn into patriotic American icons. The hodgepodge storytellin ...more
May 21, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
I read this book because Darrin recommended it, and boy was I not disappointed!

Bachelder has created a book that allows him to include two separate tracks: there is the sustained narrative of section two, which is essentially a novella length narrative, but there is also the first section, which is twice as long and composed of twenty or more shorter sections, little digressions, oddball other ideas (a collection of short shorts, a syllabus for a creative writing class, etc) which sort of orbit
Nov 06, 2008 Tim rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Upton Sinclair, fans of satire
A challenging, strange, wonderful book so deadpan in its wealth of humor that you forget after a hundred pages or so what a ridiculous scenario it describes: Upton Sinclair, coming back from the dead again and again to write plodding, exclamation-point filled denunciations of social ills. The writer plays imaginatively with structure, largely ignoring plot for the first 200 pages or so - but only because he does fine without one. Surprisingly, he connects the ideas of those 200 pages beautifully ...more
Jonathan Norton
Apr 27, 2013 Jonathan Norton rated it really liked it
I read this because it was recommended by reviewers who weren't as impressed as I was by "Sacco & Vanzetti Must Die!" by Mark Binelli. I like both books, they are different, I wouldn't rate either above the other. "U.S.!" isn't enormously more amusing (apart from the closing chapters) whilst the Binelli book has a more contemplative dimension, and reflects more of the experiences of minorities in America. Both are jolly old satires that insert an absurd distortion in to history and then try ...more
Sep 19, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leah Lucci
Nov 21, 2011 Leah Lucci rated it really liked it
I plunged into this book without researching Upton Sinclair at all, so I thought a lot of the details had been made up, but no -- he really was an extraordinarily odd man who loved socialism almost as much as he loved exclamation points. (The part about him dying and coming back to life is, of course, untrue, however. Perhaps this part doesn't need to be said.)

This book is massively fun and swift to read. It's silly. It's enjoyable. It left me wondering: do people really still hate Socialism thi
May 27, 2007 susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
i read this one for bookclub. it was chosen by a member who had the author as a student at one point. he arranged an online live chat with the author the night of our bookclub and it was so awesome. the book is about Upton Sinclair who keeps getting pulled out of the grave by modern day followers who want to keep him alive- literally it's weird. but i found the story to be gripping and the message to be really applicable to modern day times. if you've read anything by upton sinclair- you must re ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, novels
I love this book's premise: Upton Sinclair has been assassinated and brought back to life multiple times. Assassinating him is a popular pastime. Bachelder does some very cool stuff formally, it's funny, and it's unlike anything else I've read. It brings up lots of questions about art and politics and how they work together, and capitalism and socialism and stuff that's mostly not my bailiwick. A very fun and surprisingly thought-provoking read.
Jan 26, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it
A surprisingly successful mix of metafictional gimmickery and sincere story writing pits the oft-resurrected propogandist Upton Sinclair against an America so happy to ignore its own political left that assassination has become a somewhat comical spectator sport. The lists, blurbs, logs, and dialogues of the first half of the book provide an entertaining lead-up to the meat of the story in part 2.
Jun 14, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
Bachelder deserves props for versatility and bravery in this strange and entertaining collection of "songs and stories" all centering around a repeatedly resurrected (post-assassination) Upton Sinclair. While the book is experimental in form, it's also heartfelt and wise. I look forward to whatever Bachelder gets up to next. (And who knew Sinclair was such a babe? See cover photo.)
Gezelle Lopez
Dec 18, 2012 Gezelle Lopez rated it it was amazing
Utterly fantastic... this novel is quirky and fun. I laughed out loud several times and reread passages over and over again. I was forced to pick up a copy of bear vs. shark, also by chris bachelder.
I just couldn't believe how entertaining it was ... I was very close to sending the author a note and express my gratitude.
Jan 25, 2009 Cheryl rated it it was ok
The author Upton Sinclair is continuously resurrected in this fast paced, modernly irreverent story with kaleidoscopic, hard to follow narratives that is best taken in small doses for me. Very clever chapter titles, and a stream of consciousness organization, making it close to Dave Eggers, but not as funny.
Jul 09, 2010 Max rated it really liked it
Brilliant book - I admit I did start and put this book down on multiple occasions before actually fighting my way into it but am so glad I did! Extremely inventive novel (both structurally and content-wise) featuring an oft-ridiculed socialist being resurrected and assassinated on a regular basis. Great!
Rob Bockman
Aug 20, 2015 Rob Bockman rated it really liked it
Poignant and elegiac, but very funny. Clever use of epistolary/mixed media elements, but doesn't tie everything together well. That may be a metareference to Sinclair himself, though, so can't fault it. Very clever book.
Jan 12, 2008 David rated it liked it
Shelves: 2006
Wow. What a pleasant surprise. It's funny, political, fantastic, and suspenseful. And who doesn't love to poke fun at Upton Sinclar? In it's own subtle way, also raises important questions for us.
Jan 08, 2011 Bridget rated it liked it
It's hard to define this book - it is a remarkably clever, unpretentious, and enjoyable read. The organization can be a bit frustrating if you are used to a conventional narrative, but you have to give an author credit for relaying plot points via fake amazon reviews.
Nov 24, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
"He will see the fresh red graffiti- the crude shovels, the exclamation points, the 34s. He will see black cars creeping slowly through the dark streets, hunched and predatory. And he will know: The old man is back."
Mike Ingram
Jun 02, 2008 Mike Ingram rated it it was ok
I'd give this 2 1/2 stars, I guess. It's a funny/interesting concept, and some sections are brilliantly written and inventive, but as a whole I just found my interest waning beyond the interest I had in its formal conceits.
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Chris Bachelder is the author of Bear V. Shark, U.S.!: Songs and Stories, Abbott Awaits, and The Throwback Special. His fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s, The Believer, and the Paris Review. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Cincinnati, where he teaches at the University of Cincinnati.
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