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Apathy is one of the characteristic responses of any living organism when it is subjected to stimuli too intense or too complicated to cope with. The cure for apathy is comprehension.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, The Prospect Before Us

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, New York Times, Nov. 23, 1941

Men who have lost their conviction of what is good and what is bad find themselves without a sextant to check their position by. We are in the position of a man with an elaborate camping kit who finds himself lost in the woods without his matches; to kindle a fire he has to resort to the stratagems of the caveman. We fall back through generations into the oldest terrors and confusions of the race.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, The Prospect Before Us

We work to eat to get the strength to work to eat to get the strength to work.


I've always thought you should concentrate on paddling your own canoe.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, The Paris Review, spring 1969

If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, New York Times, Oct. 25, 1959

A writer ... whittles at the words and phrases of today and makes of them forms to set the mind of tomorrow's generation.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, introduction, Three Soldiers

Why, lies are like a sticky juice overspreading the world, a living, growing flypaper to catch and gum the wings of every human soul ... And the little helpless buzzings of honest, liberal, kindly people, aren't they like the thin little noise flies make when they're caught.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, One Man's Initiation: 1917

The only excuse for a novelist, aside from the entertainment and vicarious living his books give the people who read them, is as a sort of second-class historian of the age he lives in. The "reality" he missed by writing about imaginary people, he gains by being able to build a reality more nearly out of his own factual experience than a plain historian or biographer can.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, "Statement of Belief," Bookman, Sep. 1928

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 to get relief.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, Esquire, 1936

Anything that happens to you has some bearing upon what you write.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, The Paris Review, spring 1969

Life is to be used, not just held in the hand like a box of bonbons that nobody eats.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, Three Soldiers

Humanity has a strange fondness for following processions. Get four men following a banner down the street, and, if that banner is inscribed with rhymes of pleasant optimism, in an hour, all the town will be afoot, ready to march to whatever tune the leaders care to play.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, "A Humble Protest," Harvard Monthly, 1916

I learned French at an early age, and Spanish, and Portuguese. I tried Russian, but I didn't do very well with it. I used to get a special kind of headache over their verbs.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, The Paris Review, spring 1969

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.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, "The Business of a Novelist"

The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armour of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error.

JOHN DOS PASSOS, The 42nd Parallel


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