Bishop (1892-1944) was an American ‘lost generation’ poet, novelist, and critic. Educated at Princeton, where he was a classmate of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edmund Wilson, Bishop became friends with Dos Passos in New York during the early 1920s. His Collected Poems were edited by Allen Tate in 1948. In addition to Dos Passos’s first novel, Bishop reviewed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned and Stephen Vincent Benét’s The Beginning of Wisdom as the best work yet written by young writers of his own generation.
Seeing how these two studies of army life stand out by sheer honesty from previous attempts, it is difficult to speak calmly of John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers. However viewed, whether as a novel or as a document, it is so good that I am tempted to topple from my critical perch and go up and down the street with banners and drums.
Here, once and for all, is the very stuff and breath of that strange thing which was the American Army of 1917-1919. The burdensome discipline of the training camps, the unutterable boredom of billets and hospitals, the filth and terror of fight, the dizziness and gay abandon of spring in Paris. He has evoked the American soldier, alive and individual for all the effort to press him into a mould, a young man with the helpless, lovable charm of a child and the uncontrolled viciousness of an animal. His speech is here, with its unceasing obscenity and its hatred of affectation.
Three Soldiers is a story of Fuselli, an Italian of the second generation from San Francisco, eager to adapt himself and to get on