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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Capturing 'The Mind of a Generation'

“The mind of a generation is its speech. A writer makes aspects of that speech enduring by putting them in print. He whittles at the words and phrases of today and makes of them forms to set the mind of tomorrow's generation. That's history.   A writer who writes straight is the architect of history.” – John Dos Passos

Born in Chicago on this date in 1896, Dos Passos was a renowned novelist and artist and one of Ernest Hemingway’s closest friends both during the Lost Generation’s days in Paris and their times spent together in Key West, Spain and Italy.

Like Hemingway he served as an ambulance driver in Italy during W.W.I., a bond that kept them close until events during the Spanish Civil War tore them apart in the late 1930s.                         
    Dos Passos’ writing career started immediately after the war and his first novel, One Man’s Initiation: 1917, came out in 1920.  His best-known work is his 1930s U.S.A. Trilogy  – the bestselling novels The 42nd Parallel; 1919; and The Big Money.   In 1998, the Modern Library ranked the U.S.A. Trilogy 23rd on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  Another of his most recognized books is the anti-war novel Three Soldiers.

In advice to young writers, he once noted, “There are too many ‘creative writing’ courses and seminars, in which young writers are constantly being taught to rewrite the previous generation. They should be experimenting on their own. Every writer faces different problems which he must solve for himself.”

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