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John Dos Passos
American novelist
(1896-1970)



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A policeman's ballbearing eyes searched his face as he passed, a stout blue column waving a nightstick. Then suddenly he clenched his fists and walked off. 'Oh God everything is hellish,' he said aloud.
-- Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 2

Every sentence ... that appears in the public press is perused and revised and deleted in the interests of advertisers and bondholders. The fountain of national life is poisoned at the source.
-- Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 2

Obsession of all the beds in all the pigeonhole bedrooms... Obsession of feet creaking on the stairs of lodginghouses, hands fumbling at doorknobs. Obsession of pounding temples and solitary bodies rigid on their beds.
-- Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 2

The only thing an incomplete organism can do is drink.. You complete organisms don't need to drink... I going to lie down and go byby.
-- Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 2

The trouble with all the workers is we don't know nothin', we don't know how to eat, we don't know how to live, we don't know how to protect our rights.
-- Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 3

What the hell's an import and export firm got to do in politics? Our business is the price of beans... and it's goddam low.
-- Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 3

'Say will you give me a lift?' he asks the redhaired man at the wheel. How fur ye going? I dunno... pretty far.
-- Closing words of Manhattan Transfer (1925), pt. 3

Be a good boy one two three four five six get A's in some courses but don't be a grind interested in literature but remain a gentleman don't be seen with Jews or Socialists.
-- The 42nd Parallel (1930)

They wrapped me in the stars and stripes and I never remembered whether they brought me home or buried me at sea but anyway I was wrapped up in Old Glory.
-- The 42nd Parallel (1930)

Tim, I tellyerr I feel like a whipped cur. It's the system, John, it's the goddam lousy system.
-- The 42nd Parallel (1930)

Up north they were dying in the mud and the trenches but business was good in Bordeaux and the winegrowers and the shipping agents and the munitionsmakers crowded into the Chapon Fin.
-- The 42nd Parallel (1930)

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 theaters, a column of stock quotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a black-board, a publiclibrary full of old newspapers and dogeared historybooks with protests scrawled in the margin in pencil. U.S.A. is the world's biggest rivervalley fringed with valleys 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.
-- U.S.A. (1938), 'U.S.A.'

People don't choose their careers. They are engulfed by them.
-- New York Times, 25 October 1959


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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