Just acquired this beautiful, autographed image of Max Eastman, inscribed to one Jeanie Wainwright. Eastman (1883-1969), the prolific radical, poet, editor, translator, and friend of Trotsky, is the subject of my new biography-in-progress. Eastman, who helped found the Men's League for Women's Suffrage and edited the radical magazine "The Masses," grew disenchanted with Stalin and supported Trotsky, with whom he collaborated on several books. In the 1940s, he renounced his radical past and began to embrace some form of free-market economics, although he would continue to warn against reactionary forces in American conservatism, whose religious overtones Eastman, the son of two ministers and a life-long atheist, always lamented. His life leads us from upstate New York to Greenwich Village to Stalin's Russia and then back to New York again, a wild romp through the first half of the 20th century. Eastman knew everybody, from Charlie Chaplin (with whom he shared one of his lovers) and Isadora Duncan (whose adopted daughter Lisa he seduced) to Trotsky, Sigmund Freud, and Pablo Casals. When his former leftist friends criticized him, he invariably responded that while the times had changed, his opinions on art, life, and society never had. Read More
May 12, 2013 9:23 PM EDT
I had forgotten that my father (b.1913) once told me when I was young that he was named after a writer named Max Eastman. I had never heard of this writer and information in the early sixties wasn't readily available as it is today so I discounted it. Fifty years later while sifting through through genealogical information on a search engine that memory resurfaced as I found a snatch excerpt from “Enjoyment of Living” describing Eastman's early years with my cousin, three times removed, Frank L. Easton.
My grandfather died when I was eight, but I remember that he had a large scar on his temple and a squint in one eye, also evident in photos. Everyone knew that he had been involved in a wagon accident as a youth and that he and his sister had their skulls smashed in by the kicking horse. My aunt told me that a Dr. David Easton had put a tin plate in his skull and saved his life. No one, however knew who this Dr. David Easton was. Having the same name, necessarily made me curious, and started me down the tedious genealogical path many years later. I discovered he was Dr. James David Easton, one time Elmira City Physician in the late 1800's and a tinsmith in his youth. Frank was the older of his two sons. It was extraordinarily interesting for me to learn something about Frank in Eastman's book.
I have read one other of his books, “Love and Revolution”. He's a nice writer I think, and it may be too bad he also didn't dabble a little in fiction. He may have had the capability of becoming a great writer. Perhaps he just did not have that sort of mind. I think his place in history has been overlooked. I once thought he must have been quite “flaky” to turn 180 degrees in his political/economic beliefs, but now think he may have been an agent of the U.S. Government later in life.
- David Easton
May 14, 2013 5:38 AM EDT
Thanks for this interesting story. Eastman did dabble in fiction--he wrote a novel, Venture (1927), which is actually still worth reading today, although it was never reprinted. (It was translated into German and French and these versions are still readily available). He was also a good, if somewhat conservative poet (Edmund Wilson adored his poetry and felt it was brimming with a kind of pagan delight in life that made up for its anti-modernism). One of his more frequently anthologized poems is "At the Aquarium".
- Christoph Irmscher
Mar 23, 2017 5:52 PM EDT
That's a nice portrait of Max Eastman, Christoph. I'm looking forward to the publication of your biography in a few months
- Philip Danks