Shortly after the publication of U.S.A., the masterful trilogy on which the reputation of John Dos Passos rests, Jean-Paul...


CENTURY'S EBB: The Thirteenth Chronicle

Shortly after the publication of U.S.A., the masterful trilogy on which the reputation of John Dos Passos rests, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: ""I regard Dos Passos as the greatest writer of our time."" Since this, Dos Passos' last work, now being published posthumously, is devoted to justifying his growing disaffection with the political left and its ""gaggle of one worldites, Socialists, Communists and misinformed idealists,"" it is safe to say that Sartre, who sidestepped from existentialism to Marxism, might want to revise his view today. The presiding spirit of this volume, a pastiche of fiction, history and journalism, is Walt Whitman with whom Dos Passos seems to identify so closely that imitation is his form of flattery. Like the good gray poet, this cussed old reprobate took up the American cause of Democracy. There's a chapter-length biography of Whitman as well as these other emblematic figures of our century: the George Orwell of 1984 and Animal Farm, John Dewey, (depicted as our home-grown philosopher), Joe McCarthy (the scapegoat of the liberals--?), Wendell Willkie (a Communist dupe), Robert Goddard (designer of our first rocket), John Foster Dulles (the missionary diplomat), Henry Wallace (cornbreeder as well as ""chief guru of the Russophile liberals""). Other touchstones: Lee Harvey Oswald, Malcolm X and James D. Watson. Among these reappraisals with an eye on Old Glory are interleaved a series of installments about some fictional characters like ""The True Believers,"" who are a coupla sweet kids from Ohio; and ""The Later Life and Deplorable Opinions of Jay Pignatelli,"" which has a great deal to do with what Dos Passos did in the Spanish Civil War, when he became disillusioned with the great powers. A peculiar kind of agitprop art for a writer of Dos Passos' stature to have fastened upon--this eclectic revision of the friends and foes of Democracy takes us back to a Cold War scenario with America in the guise of a well-scrubbed Midwestern virgin fending off the forces of darkness and evil. In the background, you can hear the corn growing.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1975


Page Count: -

Publisher: Gambit

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1975