MIDCENTURY by John Dos Passos


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The publishers call this a ""contemporary chronicle"" -- but it is a difficult book to classify. It describes the turmoil of the midcentury years- when veterans were unable to make adjustment to the world they returned to, when labor became the victim of power complex, when personalities stood out in sharp contrast, reflecting the world of entertainment, of politics, of labor, of the military. Here are profiles scarcely definable as portraits in the round- of Walter Reuther, Harry Bridges, Jimmy Hoffa; of Young Bob La Follette and Eleanor Roosevelt; of General Douglas MacArthur and General Dean; of Sam Goldwyn and Jimmy Dean, and so on. These to me are the best of the whole melange. The Documentaries -- 25 of them -- are an odd assortment of headlines and brief stories; there are bits of free verse that were singularly reminiscent of Whitman -- with some of that impact. There are records of so-called Investigations, that on the face of them would seem to show how many loopholes are unplugged. And finally there are what might be called three novels, broken into parts, and dramatizing the sordid doubleplay of union machinations, the crooked politics, the price of unfair competition, the penalties exacted from the little people to fatten the purses of the rich and powerful. It is not a pretty picture, this ""midcentury"" he paints. There is cynicism and bitterness here, disillusionment and pathos, and occasional beauty and sentiment. Scenes are sharpened by contrast between fact and fiction, and the stories emerge set in a frame of reference through this new technique that gives them sharpened reality. It is not easy reading.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin