When I was a young man, at a time when publishers’ advances were even easier to procure than divorces are now, I signed on to write a life of John Dos Passos. Why, you ask, John Dos Passos? Dos Passos himself supplied as good an answer as any when I wrote to him to ask his cooperation. “Well,” he replied, “I suppose somebody’s got to do it.” This was my view, too, and who better than yours truly? I recall even now the joys in setting up biographical shop: acquiring all of John Dos Passos’s many books, including a first edition of a book of verse entitled A Pushcart at the Curb; marking a folder for each year in his life, into which I planned to drop disparate, discrete, and decisive facts; buying two thick notebooks, in one of which I planned to straighten out, for my own mind and later for my biography, the chronology of my man’s life, and in the other of which I planned to inscribe my own large...


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