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The 42nd Parallel Unknown Binding – 1952


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Unknown Binding, 1952
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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Pocket Book (1952)
  • ASIN: B003HF7BU2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,147,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Dos Passos (1896-1970), a member of the Lost Generation, was the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including THREE SOLDIERS and MANHATTAN TRANSFER.

Customer Reviews

And the next book is supposed to be even better.
Michael Battaglia
I was enthralled by its scope, its style, and its highly politicized substance.
Leonard Fleisig
Distinct "journalistic" styling of these books is really awesome.
Dana S. Whaley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on April 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
When I first came across John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy (42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money) as a teenager I thought they were the most exciting books I'd read to date. I was enthralled by its scope, its style, and its highly politicized substance. Dos Passos' montage-style (that seemed to be some sort of homage to the great Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein) mixed interwoven story lines of fictional characters with brief contemporary biographies of famous contemporaries. To that he added "newsreel" items, brief inserts from news clippings of the day that gave some sense of the cultural and political world these characters inhabited. Last, Dos Passos added subjective, autobiographical snippets (the "Camera Eye") that served as some sort of exterior voice of the author. I was concerned when I picked up 42nd Parallel many years later that I would find that my excitement was more the product of teenage naivete than from reading a truly unique literary work. Happily, I was not disappointed to find that the USA Trilogy remains for me, a wonderful piece of writing, one that has fallen inexplicably out of the American literary cannon.

Seventy years later we think of American fiction from the 1920s and 1930s as being dominated by three writers, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. It is not much remembered that at the time Dos Passos was thought of as an essential fourth. When 42nd Parallel was published Edmund Wilson's review went so far as to claim that Dos Passos was "the first of our writers, with the possible exception of Mark Twain, who has successfully used colloquial American for a novel of the highest artistic seriousness." Upon publication of The Big Money in 1936 Dos Passos made the cover of the August 10, 1936 issue of Time Magazine.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on February 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The 42nd Parallel," the first volume of John Dos Passos's "U.S.A." trilogy, is a novel about America and Americans from the 1890s up to the first World War. That sounds ordinary enough, but "The 42nd Parallel"--the title possibly refers to the latitude of Chicago, Dos Passos's city of birth and where a good portion of the action of the novel takes place--is notable more for its style than for its content, not that the latter is uninteresting. Dos Passos invents five young people from different backgrounds and parts of the country and follows the courses of their lives until their destinies eventually intersect.

The first to be introduced is a poor kid from Connecticut by way of Chicago named Fenian "Mac" McCreary who, starting out as an apprentice printer not unlike Benjamin Franklin, travels from city to city hopping trains and falling haplessly into a variety of odd jobs--assisting a con man, writing propaganda for a labor organization--until he ends up in Mexico running a bookstore on the fringe of a revolutionary movement. Then we meet Janey Williams, a middle-class girl from Washington, D.C., who makes a living as a stenographer while she is looking for a husband.

Next is a diligent, intelligent boy from Wilmington, Delaware, named J. Ward Moorehouse who after some bad luck in his career and his marriage becomes a successful public relations consultant for corporations. Eleanor Stoddard, a Chicago girl who dreams of a fashionable and cultured life for herself, breaks the social and economic barriers and becomes a highly reputable interior decorator in New York.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
This first part of Dos Passos' acclaimed "USA" trilogy takes the reader from the start of the 20th-century up to America's entry in World War I through the alternating life stories of five regular (white) citizens. Had he stopped there, the book might have been perfect, but modernist experimentations creep in through the "Newsreel" and "The Camera's Eye" sections and muddy up the work. These are kind of abstract prose collages or montages comprised of headlines, snatched phrases of songs, news clippings, and random phrases -- presumably intended to convey some of the mood and seeming frenetic pace of the time. The fourth element in his brew are brief sketches of notable figures of American history (some more familiar to contemporary readers than others), including Thomas Edison, "Gene" Debs, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Charles Steinmetz (pioneering electrical engineer) and more. However, if one can ignore all of Dos Passos' uneven futzing around with these various elements, there's quite a good social history underneath. When writing about his five core characters, he's very straightforward and proves to be an engaging storyteller.

Dos Passos uses his five characters to show the pre-war period as a time of great change in America, when the political field was still wide open and the opportunities for social mobility were a tangible lure to young people. Probably the closest to his heart is the first one we meet, a poor Irish-American apprentice printer from Connecticut named Mac. His picaresque adventures take him train-hopping around the country and into a turbulent Mexico, taking on odd jobs and working for the labor movement. Raised by Fenian rebels, he's a card carrying Wobbly and proud of it. The middle three characters are middle-class strivers.
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