tably. Unlike Cantor, they never mistooknpoetry for politics or literary tropes for thenburden of history.nLike so many of his generation, Cantornis not at home in our historical world—ifnhe cannot have apocalypse now, he willnsettle for a permanent revolution of consciousness.nHe has not, in short, changednvery much since his student days. Althoughnhe now affects a soul-searchingnattitude, he has never re-examined thenplatitudes and self-righteous dicta thatnall but smothered reflection during thatnunhappy decade. He continues tonbelieve that the war in Vietnam was fornthe benefit of “monopoly capitalism”nand that there is no difference betweennsoldiers of the U.S. Army and politicalnterrorists. He still admires Marcuse andnthinks Brown is to be taken seriously. Innthe final analysis, his is a heart that willnalways beat faster at the thought of anradically new world. To be sure, in annessay entitled “Twenty-Two (Broken)nNotes on Samuel Beckett,” he speaks ofnthe necessity of abandoning hope, despairnbeing the only proper response tonthe present age. Yet because he believesnin the transvaluation of all values, fornhim despair is the contemporary forrn ofnhope. Tomorrow that hope may—indeednit must—take some new form, onenprojected by the creative artist as sublimatednrevolutionary. Cantor’s forthcomingnnovel, we are advised, is entitlednThe Death of Che Guevara.nMore an autobiographer than a literaryncritic. Cantor does nothing so muchnas rehearse his own and his generation’sntragic destiny. Although he has rejectednthe cruder forms of Marxist exegesis, henstill regards literature as an agency ofnchange rather than an effort to deepennour understanding of what it means to benhuman. And if he seems to have defusednhis revolutionary activism, he persists inntreating politics within the context of hisnown longing for liberation and transformation.nAs a result he is incapable ofnunderstanding that politics can never bena means of personal salvation and that itsnethic must be one of responsibility, notnof ultimate ends. Ever mindful of thenpossible consequences of his actions, thenresponsible political leader pursues notnabstract dreams but concrete possibilitiesnwithin a particular tradition of behavior.nBecause such a pursuit presupposes anprofound knowledge and understandingnof the past, it is history, not art, withnwhich politics must be inextricably intertwined.nGenuine politics is never thenresult of flights of creative imagination,nbut the fruit of sober historical experience.nWhere Cantor is impressionistic andnvisionary, Robert C. Rosen is conventionalnand straightforward. Born inn1947, he, too, came of age during then1960’s, and his study of John Dos Passosnconstitutes a new-left critique of an oldleftnwarrior turned conservative—or atnleast anticommunist. The focus of hisnbook “is the very intersection of the politicalnand literary, for it is the melding ofnthese two impulses that produced DosnPassos’s best work and their divergencenthat produced his worst.” That DosnPassos’s work always possessed a politicalncutting edge, no one will gainsay. The illegitimatenson of a wealthy lawyer of Portuguesendescent, he was educated at Harvardnand traveled widely, serving as annambulance driver during World War I.nFrom his earliest years, he inclined tonanarchism, a consequence no doubt ofnhis Iberian heritage and his study of PionBaroja’s novels. Having fallen in with thenGreenwich Village set during the earlyn1920’s, Dos Passos was obsessed with thenevils of capitalism, real and imagined,nand for a time he harbored some sympathynfor the Communist Party. Likenother intellectuals of his acquaintance,nhe persuaded himself that Sacco andnVanzetti were innocent victims of anbigoted “system,” and, after their executionnin 1927, he began the trilogy fornwhich he is principally remembered—nUSA (The 42nd Parallel; 1919; The BignMoney). Because it was designated to bena critique of “monopoly capitalism,”nRosen praises USA, but with DosnPassos’s growing awareness of the left’snindifference to liberty, our critic becomesnnnmore critical. He summons as expertsnsuch new-left historians as StaughtonnLynd and Jesse Lemisch to help sustainnhis attack on Dos Passos’s historical studynof Jefferson, and he castigates the agingnex-radical’s portrayal of alienated youthnin Midcentury. Above all, he cannotnforgive his subject for showing “no sympathynat all for New Leftists.” Nothing,nwe are informed, “would revitalize himnafter he lost his early radical faith.” Wenhave before us ample evidence thatnRosen has kept that faith; his pages arenreplete with radical jargon—“elitist sentiment,”n”repressive institutions,” “dehumanizednsociety,” “sexism” and sonforth.nTo be sure, Rosen is right to identifynUSA as Dos Passos’s finest work, but thatnachievement owes little to the anticapiulistnanimus that informs it. Indeed, it isnnot as a political novelist that Dos Passosncommands our attention; his principalndistinction is his historical consciousnessnand his love of the past. After World WarnII, at the latest, he was very much awarenof this and began to describe himself as anwriter of history, “the greatest of thenliterary arts.” In USA, and again in Midcentury,nwe encounter what John Lukacsnhas rightly identified as a new genre: notna historical novel but, for want of a betternname, a novelized history. Here history isnnot simply the background, it is the protagonist.nIn this, they are reminiscent ofnAlexander Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914nand Lenin in Zurich. Excerpts from contemporarynnewspapers, observations (then”camera eye”) and capsule biographiesncombine with fictional episodes to evokena particular time and place: Americanduring the first half of the 20th century.nIt scarcely matters that Dos Passos conceivednUSA in a fit of ideological enthusiasm.nNever a master of style, he possessedna genuine talent for showing usnsomething about ourselves, especially innhis finely etched miniatures of such historicalnfigures as Wilson (“Meester Veelson”)nand Bryan, Debs and Big Bill Haywood,nCarnegie and J.P. Morgan, IsadoranDuncan and Rudolph Valentino,nVeblen and Frank Lloyd Wright. And ifnOctober 1982n