The second volume of U.S.A. refines the approach of the first. As in Three Soldiers and One Man’s Initiation—1917, Dos Passos reveals the damage done by World War I. Nineteen Nineteen, however, focuses on the fear and social unrest on the home front.
Across America, Dos Passos is troubled by how new institutions and movements—such as industrialization, imperialism, and materialism—stifle human freedom. He hopes for societal advancement through means consistent with the country’s democratic roots as he perceives them.
Nineteen Nineteen uses a fresh, multimedia style that mixes newsreels, song lyrics, biographies of major figures, semi-autobiographical prose poems, and standard narrative. Pithy, miniature biographies of John Reed, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, J.P. Morgan, and the Unknown Soldier are featured.
Critic Malcolm Cowley calls the book “not only the best of all his novels; it is, I believe, a landmark in American fiction.” Critic Henry Hazlitt finds “no one who is [Dos Passos’s] superior in range of awareness of American life.” The Chicago Daily Tribune remarks that “1919 is literally what so many books are erroneously called, a ‘slice of life.’ It is the kind of book a reader never forgets.”
Ernest Hemingway heaps praise on Nineteen Nineteen. He jokingly warns Dos Passos that he is writing so well that he should take extra care of his health—hot streaks never last.Purchase at Amazon.com