Smarty Pants Podcast

American Modernism’s Lost Boy-King

Paul Auster on Stephen Crane

By Stephanie Bastek | November 5, 2021
Spencer Ostrander/Syracuse University
Spencer Ostrander/Syracuse University

In his decades-long career, the writer Paul Auster has turned his hand to poems, essays, plays, novels, translations, screenplays, memoirs—and now biography. Burning Boy explores the life and work of Stephen Crane, whose short time on earth sputtered out at age 28 from tuberculosis. Like his biographer, Crane, too, spanned genres—poetry, novels, short stories, war reporting, and semi-fictional newspaper “sketches”—striking it big in 1895 with The Red Badge of Courage, which was widely celebrated at the time and is still regarded as his best work. But in Auster’s estimation, the rest of Crane’s output (and there is a surprising amount of it) is sorely neglected, and the pleasure of Burning Boy lies in reading one of the 19th century’s finest writers alongside one of today’s. Paul Auster joins the podcast to talk about the task of restoring Stephen Crane to the American canon.

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