Monday, January 21, 2008

Dos Passos

Below is perhaps the most famous part of Dos Passos's USA trilogy, taken from one of the Camera Eye loosely-biographical sections where the "eye" is witnessing the Sacco Vanzetti verdict. I'm trying to read all of the USA trilogy this week (First part down, two to go) but I dont know if I'll get through it. But it's dazzling. It's blunt and sloppy, confused and jumbled, absurdly narrativized even as it jazzes it self up with poetics, unsure of where its loyalties lie, unsure of loyalties in general. Can't commit to Socialism, but knows something's amiss with America in the 20s and 30s. Can't find a hero, but hates the crowd. And it's illustrated with the most ridiculous comic-drawings ever (Thank you Reginald Marsh). People keep saying USA is "brillantly crafted" but it really isn' runneth over at every angle. And its completely excessive even if it has a strict self imposed structure, which it does.

Anyway, still digesting it, so I figured I'd throw up the 'star passage' for your enjoyment.


they have clubbed us off the streets they are stronger they are rich they hire and fire the politicians the newspapereditors the old judges the small men with reputations the collegepresidents the wardheelers (listen businessmen collegepresidents judges America will not forget her betrayers) they hire the men with guns the uniforms the policecars the patrolwagons

all right you have won you will kill the brave men our friends tonight

American our nation has been beaten by strangers who have turned our language inside out who have taken the clean words our fathers spoke and made them slimy and foul.

their hired men sit on the judge's bench they sit back with their feet on the tables under the dome of the State House they are ignorant of our beliefs the y have the dollars the guns the armed forces the powerplants

they have built the electricchair and hired the executioner to throw the switch

all right we are two nations