Monday, February 27, 2012

John Sayles: Literary Child of John Dos Passos

Maverick movie-maker John Sayles, who takes your questions tonight at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center uptown, is the author of A Moment in the Sun, newly out in paperback.

Ben Crair of The Daily Beast compares the sprawling historical novel, set during the upheavals of the late 19th century, to the work of Great American novelist John Dos Passos:

"A Moment on the Sun looks past its contemporaries on the New Releases shelf and takes a page instead from John Dos Passos, whose gigantic U.S.A. trilogy is a stylistic and spiritual forebear. The book blends invented characters—like an African-American soldier named Junior and a drifter named Hod—with historical figures, including Mark Twain and McKinley's assassin. Chapters jump between perspectives in a narrative montage—one of the few techniques that fiction writers have successfully appropriated from film. Sayles sometimes tosses in letters, newspaper headlines, and advertisements. The sum total is a sprawling, mosaic portrait of the nation. "If human beings have a way of looking at the world, nations do, too," Sayles explains.