Dos Passos in The Daily Beast

Biographer James McGrath Morris, author of the new book The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War, pens a wonderful guest piece in The Daily Beast. It’s a concise contrast of the two authors’ visions for art and authorship. A selection:

To Hemingway and Dos Passos, the war had made traditional writing styles inadequate. Their generation needed its own voice, not one that imitated another from the past. Hemingway sought to describe the desolate postwar world with honest clarity, working like a jeweler in his quest to pen “the truest sentence that you know.” He believed that the perfect representation of an imperfect world alone was sufficient.

In contrast, Dos Passos wanted his writing to change the world. The war was no longer solely a cataclysmic horror that swept across Europe and maimed and killed 38 million people; rather, its unparalleled militarization was a harbinger of how society was robbing people of their individuality.