Manhattan Transfer (1925). John Dos Passos. Edited by Donald Pizer

Spoiler alert. Just before Stan Emery, the tragic embodiment of youthful excess in John Dos Passos’ glittering Manhattan Transfer, dies in an apartment fire, he looks out onto the cityscape of Manhattan and says, “Kerist I wish I was a skyscraper!” (255). For each reader of the novel, the line will stand out. It hits the eye, a solitary line after a set of song lyrics and before a paragraph break.