John Dos Passos was born today…in 1896. He is well-regarded, but not to the level that his work and influence merit. He was a pioneer of the nonlinear novel, polished the stream of consciousness form, and chronicled America’s international ascent and domestic rumblings.
Jean-Paul Sartre considered Dos Passos “the greatest writer of our time.” E.L. Doctorow wrote: “It is a nice irony that not the era’s big literary personalities, but this quiet inhibited young man, would produce the most vaultingly ambitious novel of all—a twelve-hundred-page chronicle of the historic and spiritual life of an entire country in the first three decades of the twentieth century.”
No one was better at revealing the ways in which America and Americans engaged with an increasingly complex world. His disparate characters grabbed at opportunity with élan and shivered with trepidation over war, relationships, and money. Dos Passos portrays a world in which individuals awkwardly strive for better lives. We all wrestle with that.
The U.S.A. Trilogy is Dos Passos’ masterpiece, combining artistic innovation, political criticism, and cultural engagement.
We also have the collected trilogy:
The U.S.A. Trilogy