The Early Dos Passos Reader
This volume contains the following works of John Dos Passos:
One Man’s Initiation - 1917
Rosinante to the Road Again
A Pushcart at the Curb
It also contains a nineteenth century polemic by his father, John Randolph Dos Passos about why the United States should recognize Cuba.
John Dos Passos was born in Chicago on January 14, 1896. His father was John Randolph Dos Passos; many people get confused when making Internet searches for the son, who is the more famous author by far. The elder Dos Passos was married when the younger John Dos Passos was born out of wedlock. Although the father married his son John’s mother after the death of his wife in 1910 when the younger John Dos Passos was 14, he refused to acknowledge John as his son until he turned 16.
In spite of these familial difficulties, the younger John Dos Passos, hereinafter referred to as simply John Dos Passos, benefitted from an expensive, first-class education, all presumably, paid for by his father. He enrolled at what now is called Choate Rosemary Hall preparatory school in Connecticut and then traveled with a private tutor on a six-month tour to study art, architecture, and literature.
After he graduated from Harvard in 1916, he went to Spain, where he volunteered as an ambulance driver during World War I before the United States entered the war. In 1918, he enlisted in the U. S. Army Medical Corps. During this time, he completed a draft of his first novel, One Man's Initiation: 1917, which began his career as a highly successful writer.
After he started writing as a career, he became friends with Ernest Hemingway and several other writers of the “lost generation.” He soon began to see the United States as two nations, one rich and one poor. He spent several months in Russia studying socialism in 1928. In the 1930s, he served on The American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky (the so-called Dewey Commission) which had been set up following the first of the Moscow “Show Trials” in 1936.
He returned to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, but his views on the Communists and Communism had already begun to change. Dos Passos broke with Hemingway and others over attitudes towards the war and willingness to lend their names to deceptive Stalinist propaganda. He and Hemingway became bitter enemies.
John Dos Passos would later write: "I have come to think, especially since my trip to Spain, that civil liberties must be protected at every stage.”
He continued his career as a writer with the publication of numerous other books, over thirty-seven of which were published. The last was published in 1970, the year of his death in Baltimore.
John Dos Passos is probably best known today for his U.S.A trilogy. Unfortunately, since these three books were published in the 1930s, they do not appear to be available in the public domain in the United States. Hence, they are not included in this anthology. A motivated reader can probably find a version of these books on the Internet.
In 1947, he was elected to membership in the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.
John Dos Passos died on September 28, 1970 in Baltimore, Maryland, which is why he is included in the Baltimore Authors series published by AfterMath.
A final note on his father is in order. John Randolph Dos Passos was an authority on trusts and supported many of the most powerful conglomerates and cartels in his writings. Not surprisingly, given the obviously tense and complex relationship between father and son, the younger John Dos Passos wrote in opposition to many of his father’s published positions in many of his books. For purposes of comparison, the arguments of the older Dos Passos about the liberation of Cuba from Spain are included in this volume. It appears that his only connection to Baltimore is through his son.
- AfterMath, December 2012
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