Benét (1898-1943) was an American poet, essayist, and short-story writer, and the author of John Brown’s Body (1928), a long narrative poem which won him a Pulitzer Prize. The review praises the novel for exposing a dangerous flaw in American democracy.
This is the story of Homer T. Crawford—‘Chuck’ Crawford—that plain man from the plain people who got to the United States Senate by the grace of a theme-song, a spell-binding voice and a hillbilly band, and as soon as he got there, started sprouting pinfeathers of fascism. This is the story of the Honorable Homer Crawford, who started by attacking the ‘interests’ and ended by attacking ‘Jew peddlers’ and ‘visionary social workers’—the Honorable Homer T. Crawford who would sell his grandmother’s bones for five minutes in the political spotlight, the tribune of the people who sells out the people, our home-grown, home-cured product, the most dangerous factor in our political scene. If you think he doesn’t exist, all you have to do is to take a look at the files of the ‘Congressional Record,’ past and present. And in Number One, John Dos Passos has done his story with brilliant impressionism.
The story is largely told through Tyler Spotswood, Crawford’s fidus Achates, fixer, errand-boy and contact man. It is a good method, because Spotswood at once sees through Crawford and still believes in something in him—the uncomfortable bond between the two is very well drawn. So are all the personages of the Crawford gang and the various political figures met along the way,