Max Eastman

A Life

Christoph Irmscher

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The definitive biography of a radical activist and intellectual

Max Eastman (1883–1969) was a prolific writer, radical, and public intellectual who helped shape the twentieth century. While researching this masterful work, acclaimed biographer Christoph Irmscher was granted unprecedented access to the Eastman family archive, allowing him to document little-known aspects of the famously handsome and charismatic radical.
Considered one of the “hottest radicals” of his time, Eastman edited two of the most important modernist magazines, The Masses and The Liberator, and campaigned for women’s suffrage and world peace. A fierce critic of Joseph Stalin, Eastman befriended and translated Leon Trotsky and remained unafraid to express unpopular views, drawing criticism from both conservatives and the Left. Set against the backdrop of several decades of political and ideological turmoil, and interweaving Eastman’s singular life with stories of the fascinating people he knew and loved, this book will have broad interdisciplinary appeal in twentieth-century history and politics, intellectual history, and literary studies.

Christoph Irmscher is Provost Professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he directs the Wells Scholars Program. Among his many books are Longfellow Redux and Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science, named Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review in 2013.

“A shrewd, important, and revealing portrait of the ever-unrepentant Eastman.”—Jill Lepore, author of Joe Gould’s Teeth

“Eastman deserves a reintroduction, and Irmscher has done a magnificent job of dramatizing his life.”—George B. Hutchinson, Cornell University

“Christoph Irmscher has written a truly humane biography of a life that captures the last century’s transformations. Richly illustrated with photographs, artwork, letters, and published documents, Max Eastman gives the reader a full sense of the man who wrote poetry as well as trenchant political, literary, and philosophical essays, and who retained a lifelong interest in the sources of humor and laughter.”—Werner Sollors, author of The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s

“This revolutionary turned reactionary deserves to be studied again. A polarizing figure—much celebrated, much reviled—he was a true American original, and this clear-eyed biography is equal to the task.”—Nicholas Delbanco, author of Lastingness: The Art of Old Age.

"It’s difficult to be a legend, but Max Eastman has at long last acquired the absorbing and revelatory biography he ought to have. Christoph Irmscher’s textured portrait is written with self-confident clarity, a keen archeological eye, superb craft, and exemplary evidentiary standards. Surely definitive, Max Eastman disdains closets and dark places to reveal what it was like to have lived one of radicalism’s most remarkable lives."—Alan M. Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor of English Literature and American Culture, University of Michigan

“An intimate portrait of a noted public intellectual . . . a richly detailed biography.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Irmscher makes a . . . . persuasive case for Eastman’s enduring relevance.”—Publishers Weekly

“A subtle portrait of a disappointed man . . . Readers wanting a full life of Eastman are well served by Mr. Irmscher’s meticulous chronicle.”—Richard Aldous, Wall Street Journal

“Satisfying in every sense, Irmscher’s biography is a skillfully crafted record of an American intellectual who was conflicted and contradictory.”—Choice

“Electrically readable . . . But for the length of a reading, Max Eastman: A Life brings readers inside a life lived full-tilt with passions and interests and doubts and bright Vineyard summers.”—Vineyard Gazette

“For information—good, bad, and ugly—Irmscher’s book is the place to go.”—City Journal 

“It’s a treat to find a well-written biography of someone I knew nothing about . . . Irmscher is a lively writer who creates a rich portrait of a complex man.”—Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
ISBN: 9780300222562
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
448 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
52 b/w illus.