Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dos Passos & Ocracoke

I am a tad embarrassed to admit that I've never read anything by John Dos Passos (1896-1970), American writer and artist. He was a contemporary and one-time friend of Ernest Hemingway. Jean-Paul Sartre called Dos Passos "the greatest writer of our time."

On page 222 of Virginian Carr's biography, Dos Passos, A Life, she writes about the author's 1926 trek up the Outer Banks, including his stop at Ocracoke. After attending a square dance at the old Pamlico Inn, he and his companions set out walking up the beach in the moonlight. They passed a herd of wild ponies and "the silhouettes of hulls and masts of shipwrecks casting grotesque shadows upon the fine white sands. The sojourners counted some forty vessels in one area alone."

You can read the relevant excerpt from Carr's book here.

I'll look for one of Dos Passos' books. Maybe you'll want to read one also.


  1. Anonymous9:06 AM

    I chuckled to read of the drunk overweight Yale graduate researching a Collier's magazine article from a wheel barrow. Corn Liquor on the Outer banks... they must have brought it with them don't cha know.

    Does that wheel barrow still exist? sounds like the missing bike story .

  2. It was probably not Corn Liquor they were drinking. Another Dos Passos biographer also refers to his visit to the Outer Banks. He writes, "The evening they left Ocracoke they had a lively time square dancing with several pretty girls and drinking Captain Gaskill's concoction of Grape-Ola mixed with orange extract." There was probably a pleneous supply of Ocracoke Meal Wine as well!

  3. rkostar9:17 AM

    i'd recommend manhattan transfer, philip, or the first volume of the trilogy usa, but be forewarned: he's kind of dark & depressing.

  4. Ron, Thanks for the suggestion. I've already ordered Manhattan Transfer from Books to be Red. I don't read a lot of fiction, but I'll be OK with dark and depressing. In many ways that's more to my liking than sappy and sugary!

  5. Anonymous10:29 AM

    you're welcome, 13th cousin on my mother and grandfather's side.
    wait until february to read it, philip. it's definitely NOT sappy and sugary.
    have you read peter mathiessen's "shadown country?" now there's a masterpeice.