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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Brick by brick


“If there is a special ‘Hell’ for writers it would probably be the forced contemplation of their own works.” – John Dos Passos

Today is the birthdate of Dos Passos, another of the great Chicago writers from the first half of the last century, whose mark in literature came primarily in the area of writing about issues of social justice even though he was a member of what today would be called “The 1%.”  

Well-educated (private schools and a university degree from Harvard) and well-traveled, he visited Europe and the Middle East, where he learned about literature, art and architecture.  Those life experiences balanced against his experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I shaped his views and his writing about “fairness and justice.” 

 
 John Dos Passos

The author of many books and also a gifted artist (he did covers for Life magazine, for example) he is best known for his USA Trilogy, which consists of The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money – a trio of novels that has been rated in the top 25 of The 100 Best English Language novels of the 20th Century.

Near the end of his long life – he died at age 84 in 1970 – Dos Passos reflected on his life’s work and said: “The creation of a world view is the work of a generation rather than of an individual, but we, each of us, for better or worse, add our brick to the edifice.”