Dos Passos, Painterly Prose

On this day, 1970, writer John Dos Passos died in Baltimore, MD. He and my grandmother had an apartment there. Critics who know Dos Passos least dismiss him as a Marxist, naturalist, or political pamphleteer. Those who know him best know he was a writer of many parts. 1919 is a brutal satire but it… Read more »

Dos Passos and Denia, Spain

At the English cemetery of Denia, Spain, there is an inscribed stone marker with a poem by John Dos Passos, “How Fine to Die in Denia.” It’s rhetorical; my grandfather died in Baltimore. Dos Passos saw Denia during a 2-week trip along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, from Christmas 1916 to early January 1917. It… Read more »

Innovation and the American Character

I was reading an extended article in Vanity Fair on the U.S. Dept. of Energy and I came across a quote that reminds me of Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy: “At any given time in America there are lots of seriously smart people with bold ideas that might change life as we know it—it may be… Read more »

The 42nd Parallel: Reader Response 2

People have complained before that Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy is hard to read, beyond just the length. I get it. Yes, the language is very plainspoken. You’re not gonna consult the dictionary except in cases of outdated slang. But one of the principal difficulties in tracking characters is that you have to follow both words… Read more »

The 42nd Parallel: Reader Response 1

I’ve been re-reading The 42nd Parallel. It might be the 3rd or 4th reading. I’m nearly finished. With this reconsideration of the work, I was hoping to come into wisdom, and I think I did. I think it’s a novel about selling out. These strivers begin with idealism and potential and the sell out to… Read more »

Breaking: 2018 John Dos Passos Society Conference

Third Biennial John Dos Passos Society Conference (June 20-22, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal) Abstract Submission Deadline: January 31, 2018 Graduate students wishing to be considered for supplemental travel funding must submit a full paper by February 28, 2018 The John Dos Passos Society invites papers for its third biennial conference to be held in Lisbon, Portugal…. Read more »

Dos Passos and Refugees

Even after all these years of studying his work, I still happily uncover new bits of history. And sometimes these bits are truly fascinating and uplifting. Consider this: In July 1933, upon Einstein’s request, a committee of 51 American artists, intellectuals and political leaders came together to form the International Relief Association. Among them were… Read more »

Tour of Duty

I’ve ordered a used copy of John Dos Passos’ Tour of Duty. I’ve never read it before and I think now is a great time for it. Americans of my generation–the millennials–tend to take for granted that Europe is stable, democratic, and aligned perfectly with the United States. I don’t remember the Soviet Union at… Read more »

Dos Passos Farm in Summer

My grandfather wrote in summer 1916 of Dos Passos Farm: “A wonderful blowy day and the hollyhocks are nodding and bowing like tall ladies at a country dance–the poppies are all a-flutter and the lavender comes in puffs of glorious fragrance through the window.” The summer magic is still here.

Dos Passos-savvy

I’ve been doing so much JDP legacy work lately I was inspired to write a poem about it: Dos Passos-savvy   When I was a boy I knew books; they showed sharks, rays, barracudas, saw-jawed megalodons, Tyrannosaurus rex, Fujita scale tornadic intensity, cirrus, cumulocirrus, cumulonimbus clouds, Hercules holding up the world, no tears, no help…. Read more »

Earth Day

I found this quote quite recently in the Dos Passos oeuvre. Given the salience of environmental matters today and always, I’m delighted to share it. It’s certainly appropriate for Earth Day. It’s from a little-known Dos Passos nonfiction work called The Ground We Stand On. We have taken the accomplishments in state building of the… Read more »