COPYRIGHT, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, BY JOHN DOS PASSOS
THE MODERN LIBRARY IS PUBLISHED BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC. BENNETT A. CERF · DONALD S. KLOPFER · ROBERT K. HAAS
Manufactured in the United States of America Printed by Parkway Printing Company Paper by Richard Bauer & Co. Bound by H. Wolff
JOHN DOS PASSOS (1896- )
A NOTE ON THE AUTHOR OF "U.S.A."
By far the most ambitious undertaking of John Dos Passos' career as a writer is the trilogy, U.S.A. The three novels, The 42nd Parallel, Nineteen Nineteen and The Big Money, are brought together in one volume, thus fulfilling the author's original intention of making these three panels an integrated lit- erary pattern of contemporary American life.
Born in Chicago, John Dos Passos received his early education there and was graduated from Harvard University cum laude in 1916. Immediately afterward he served with the Harjes, the Red Cross and the U.S.A. Ambulance Services during the World War. His novel, Three Soldiers, issued in 1921 (Modern Li- brary No. 205), remains today one of the few war books to survive as living literature. Since its appearance, each new work of fiction has advanced John Dos Passos' development, and today he is acknowledgedly one of the world's foremost novelists. As a participant in the American social struggle, notably as a cham- pion of Sacco and Vanzetti, Dos Passos' record is quite as distin- guished as is his achievement in the role of social commentator and novelist.
U. S. A.
The young man walks fast by himself through the crowd that thins into the night streets; feet are tired from hours of walking; eyes greedy for warm curve of faces, answering flicker of eyes, the set of a head, the lift of a shoulder, the way hands spread and clench; blood tingles with wants; mind is a beehive of hopes buzzing and stinging; muscles ache for the knowledge of jobs, for the roadmender's pick and shovel work, the fisherman's knack with a hook when he hauls on the slithery net from the rail of the lurching trawler, the swing of the bridgeman's arm as he slings down the whitehot rivet, the engineer's slow grip wise on the throttle, the dirtfarmer's use of his whole body when, whoaing the mules, he yanks the plow from the fur- row. The young man walks by himself searching through the crowd with greedy eyes, greedy ears taut to hear, by himself, alone.
The streets are empty. People have packed into subways, climbed into streetcars and buses i in the sta- tions they've scampered for suburban trains; they've filtered into lodgings and tenements, gone up in eleva- tors into apartmenthouses. In a showwindow two sal- low windowdressers in their shirtsleeves are bringing out a dummy girl in a red evening dress, at a corner welders in masks lean into sheets of blue flame repair- ing a cartrack, a few drunk bums shamble along, a sad streetwalker fidgets under an arclight. From the river comes the deep rumbling whistle of a steamboat leav- ing dock. A tug hoots far away.
The young man walks by himself, fast but not fast enough, far but not far enough (faces slide out of sight, talk trails into tattered scraps, footsteps tap
fainter in alleys); he must catch the last subway, the streetcar, the bus, run up the gangplanks of all the steamboats, register at all the hotels, work in the cities, answer the wantads, learn the trades, take up the jobs, live in all the boardinghouses, sleep in all the beds. One bed is not enough, one job is not enough, one life is not enough. At night, head swimming with wants, he walks by himself alone.
No job, no woman, no house, no city.
Only the ears busy to catch the speech are not alone; the ears are caught tight, linked tight by the tendrils of phrased words, the turn of a joke, the sing- song fade of a story, the gruff fall of a sentence; link- ing tendrils of speech twine through the city blocks, spread over pavements, grow out along broad parked avenues, speed with the trucks leaving on their long night runs over roaring highways, whisper down sandy byroads past wornout farms, joining up cities and fill- ingstations, roundhouses, steamboats, planes groping along airways; words call out on mountain pastures, drift slow down rivers widening to the sea and the hushed beaches.
It was not in the long walks through jostling crowds at night that he was less alone, or in the train- ing camp at Allentown, or in the day on the docks at Seattle, or in the empty reek of Washington City hot boyhood summer nights, or in the meal on Market Street, or in the swim off the red rocks at San Diego, or in the bed full of fleas in New Orleans, or in the cold razorwind off the lake, or in the gray faces trem- bling in the grind of gears in the street under Michigan Avenue, or in the smokers of limited expresstrains, or walking across country, or riding up the dry mountain canyons, or the night without a sleepingbag among frozen beartracks in the Yellowstone, or canoeing Sun- days on the Quinnipiac;
but in his mother's words telling about longago, in his father's telling about when I was a boy, in the kidding stories of uncles, in the lies the kids told at school, the hired man's yarns, the tall tales the dough- boys told after taps; it was the speech that clung to the ears, the link that tingled in the blood; U. S. A.
U. S. A. is the slice of a continent. U. S. A. is a group of holding companies, some aggregations of trade unions, a set of laws bound in calf, a radio network, a chain of moving picture theatres, a column of stock- quotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a blackboard, a publiclibrary full of old newspapers and dogeared historybooks with protests scrawled on the margins in pencil. U. S. A. is the world's greatest rivervalley fringed with mountains and hills, U. S. A. is a set of bigmouthed officials with too many bankaccounts. U. S. A. is a lot of men buried in their uniforms in Arlington Cemetery. U. S. A. is the letters at the end of an address when you are away from home. But mostly U. S. A. is the speech of the people.
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