American Notes: A Darkling Whitman

"History," he wrote years ago, "is a mass-invention, the day dream of a race." It was the American day dream that especially fascinated John Dos Passos. Like a darkling Walt Whitman, he sang of a sprawling, intricate, in many ways desolate, industrial America. Dos Passos had to invent his own form to contain his vision. U.S.A. was a montage of deft biographies, Joycean interior monologues, narrative fictions and fascinating oddments, headlines and snatches of popular songs. His prose-poetry was as varied and fragmented as his pluralistic America.

Dos Passos, who died last...

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