Literary Birthday – 14 January – John Dos Passos

John Dos Passos was born 14 January 1896, and died 28 September 1970.

John Dos Passos Quotes

  1. If there is a special Hades for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works, with all the misconceptions, the omissions, the failures that any finished work of art implies.
  2. A satirist is a man whose flesh creeps so at the ugly and the savage and the incongruous aspects of society that he has to express them as brutally and nakedly as possible in order to get relief.
  3. You get a great deal off your chest—emotions, impressions, opinions. Curiosity urges you on—the driving force. What is collected must be got rid of. That’s one thing to be said about writing. There is a great sense of relief in a fat volume.
  4. A novel is a commodity that fulfils a certain need; people need to buy daydreams like they need to buy ice cream or aspirin or gin. They even need to buy a pinch of intellectual catnip now and then to liven up their thoughts.
  5. Of course anything that happens to you has some bearing upon what you write.
  6. The business of a novelist is, in my opinion, to create characters first and foremost, and then to set them in the snarl of the human currents of his time, so that there results an accurate permanent record of a phase of history.
  7. A writer… whittles at the words and phrases of today and makes of them forms to set the mind of tomorrow’s generation.
  8. I do a lot of revising. Certain chapters six or seven times. Occasionally you can hit it right the first time. More often, you don’t.
  9. Three words that still have meaning, that I think we can apply to all professional writing, are discovery, originality, invention. The professional writer discovers some aspect of the world and invents out of the speech of his time some particularly apt and original way of putting it down on paper.
  10. There is a part of me in every character, naturally. That’s why novelists rarely write good autobiographies. You start one and it becomes another novel.

John Dos Passos was a radical American novelist and social historian who championed the underdog. He became well-known with the publication of Manhattan Transfer. He is best known for his critically praised U.S.A. trilogy which consisted of the novels: The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money.

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by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 14th January 2014