Midcentury undoubtedly will be one of the most talked about books of our day. It will have its passionate detractors as well as its enthusiastic praisers, both for the same reason: its forthright expose of the presence of racketeers in the labor movement and of the dissatisfaction among the ‘rank and file’ in labor.
The author quotes letters received by members of Congress and by newspapers asking such questions as: ‘Is it freedom when a man cannot work at a job without paying a union for the benefit of doing so? Is it freedom when a man cannot work when the union says “strike”? Is it freedom when our streets are blocked, cars overturned, windows broken, buildings and homes blown up by gangs of hoodlums who call themselves pickets?… Is the right to vote any more sacred than the right to work?’
Nobody today will read Midcentury without being disturbed from complacency about the state of the nation and his own state of mind, heart, and soul.
Midcentury is essentially a novel about labor, but it is also about our country, today and only yesterday, a novel so interspersed with fact that the book seems less a story than history. The technique which Dos Passos chooses is the same he used in his great trilogy of the 1920s and 30s, published under the general title, U.S.A. It is a kaleidoscopic series of actual headlines, excerpts from advertisements and letters, short biographies of actual persons and the stories of persons who, if not real, have, in Dos Passos’ pages, the forceful impact of reality.
There is no flowing continuity either to the fictional life stories or to the over-all narrative except in the brief biographies of real men