Sep 28, 2010

John Dos Passos

"...The plan of U.S.A. is panoramic: its aim is to show almost the whole picture of American life in the first three decades of this century, a carefully significant bit at a time. The three novels are composed of four distinct parts: "newsreels," in which headlines and newspaper stories, advertisements, and snatches of contemporary popular songs are placed in sometimes comic, often ironic juxtaposition; "camera eyes" (fifty-one of these), in which Dos Passos offers, in stream-of-consciousness prose, autobiographical recollections of a period he is writing about elsewhere in the novel; biographies (twenty-six of these) of great or emblematic figures of the time, such as...Henry Ford,...J.P. Morgan,...and Isadora Duncan...; and, finally, narratives of the lives of twelve major characters, and half a dozen important secondary ones...
U.S.A., its present-day readers may not realize, was an avant-garde work, in which Dos Passos applied modernist means to naturalist ends. The result is something like a multimedia event within a single book. Dos Passos had devised, through a montagelike method, an impressive apparatus for delineating collective historical experience."

- Joseph Epstein, New Yorker, August 5, 1996