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 includes many passages of great painterly beauty:

“The great masses of ruins, the engraved stones, the names, the stately Roman names, the old cabdriver with his oilcloth stovepipe hat and his green soupstrainers recommending whorehouses under the last quarter of the ruined moon, the great masses of masonry full of arches and columns piled up everywhere into the night, the boom of the word Rome dying away in pompous chords into the past, sent them to be with their heads whirling, Rome throbbing in their ears so that they could not sleep.”