John Dos Passos

(1896-1970 / Chicago, Illinois)

John Dos Passos Quotes

  • ''In certain savage tribes in New Guinea, they put the old people up in the trees and shake them once a year in the spring; if they don't fall out they let them live another year.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Produced by the New Playwrights Theatre in New York in the spring of 1929. Professor in Airways, Inc. Act 1, Three Plays, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1934).
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  • ''Sex is a slotmachine.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Steve Shuyler in 1919, of the trilogy U.S.A., The Modern Library, Random House, Inc. (1937). Remark follows an incident during the First World War in which a waitress in Marseilles, France collects a tip in coins by "hoisting up her skirts and picking up the coins between her legs."
  • ''We work to eat to get the strength to work to eat to get the strength to work to eat to get the strength to work to eat to get the strength to work.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Produced by the New Playwrights Theatre in New York in the spring of 1929. Strikers in Airways, Inc. Act 2, Three Plays, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1934).
  • ''Time has an undertaking establishment on every block and drives his coffin nails faster than the steam riveters rivet or the stenographers type or the tickers tick out fours and eights and dollar signs and ciphers.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Originally performed as The Moon Is A Gong in 1925 by the Harvard Dramatic Club. Telescope man in The Garbage Man, pt. 2, sc. 1, Three Plays, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1934).
  • ''Our presidents have been getting to be synthetic monsters, the work of a hundred ghost- writers and press agents so that it is getting harder and harder to discover the line between the man and the institution.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Letter, July 6, 1951, to his friend, literary critic Edmund Wilson. The Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos, ed. Townsend Ludington (1973). In reference to presidents of the United States.
  • ''Isn't it curious how completely ignorant we all are of the most important part of our bodily mechanism. It is really criminal. Yet there is no nation in the world that doesnt surround sex with fantastic walls. Of course ours are sillier than any—but not much.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Letter, September 20, 1919, to his friend Rumsey Marvin. The Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos, ed. Townsend Ludington (1973). Written in Granada, Spain, in an effort to compare the average age of seduction in various countries including the U.S.
  • ''That's the great danger of sectarian opinions, they always accept the formulas of past events as useful for the measurement of future events and they never are, if you have high standards of accuracy.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Letter, January 25, 1935, to his friend Robert Cantwell, novelist. The Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos, ed. Townsend Ludington (1973).
  • ''The war is utter damn nonsense—a vast cancer fed by lies and self seeking [sic] malignity on the part of those who don't do the fighting.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. letter, Aug. 23, 1917, to his friend Rumsey Marvin. The Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos, ed. Townsend Ludington (1973). Written while at the western front near Verdun during the First World War.
  • ''It's rather grisly, isnt it, how soon a living man becomes nothing more than a collection of stocks and bonds and debts and real estate?''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. Letter, March 10, 1917, to his friend Rumsey Marvin. The Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos, ed. Townsend Ludington (1973). Written to his friend in school after Dos Passos had graduated from Harvard in 1916, traveled in Europe, and moved to New York.
  • ''The only way to find out anything about what kinds of lives people led in any given period is to tunnel into their records and to let them speak for themselves.''
    John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, painter. The Ground We Stand On: Some Examples From the History of a Political Creed, "Notes on Books to Read," Harcourt, Brace and Company (1941).

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