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U.S.A.: The 42nd Parallel / 1919 / The Big Money (Library of America) Hardcover – August 1, 1996
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
Top Customer Reviews
As the focus moves from character to character, we fall in love with all twelve of them, despite their flaws. They take us all over North America, and even to Europe for World War I. Rich and poor, male and female, worker, labor organizer, aviation millionaire or government official, all have their own stories to tell, and each represents a bit of America.
Such a grand fabric contains many themes: drink destroys the great and the small alike, illicit sex seduces people into giving up their money, their families, and their health, and everyone takes advantage of the working man - even his so-called friends. Nevertheless, the book never seems to be making a moral point, and the characters don't come across as good or evil, heroes or villains; they're just people.
One does become uncomfortably aware much the America of 100 years ago resembles the Third World countries of today. Read Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance" to compare and contrast.
This edition of USA (Library of America, Hardcover) combines all three novels into a single handy volume with decent explanatory notes, a built-in silk bookmark, and - best of all - a sewn binding that lies flat, despite the nearly 1300 pages.
It is intersting to note that at the time that this book was written, Dos Passos was a frevent socialist/communist. By the time of his death, he had renounced the communist idealogies for a more conservatine viewpoint.
Although, the fictional prose is simplistic and the dialogue somewhat cliched, a powerful story is told. The world is seen through the eyes of several ordinary citizens, all with different backgrounds and from different classes. The characters lives interwave through important world events such as labor unrest, Mexican revolution, World War 1, and the Russian Revolution.
Interwoven throughout the fiction are snippets that attempt to educate the reader. The 'Camera Eye' passages are newspaper headlines and attempt to capture the mood of the day. There are sections of Dos Passos's own thoughts of the day, some of them written as Dos Passos as a child might have seen them. My favorite sections were the short autobiographies of important citizens- among them Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Eugene Debs, Woodrow Wilsoon, and Emma Goldberg.
If you are lookiong for a passionate or suspenseful fictional story, this is not the book for you. But if you are intersted in history, especially American History, this book is excellent in capturing the mood of first third of the 20th century.
These three novels are brilliant seperately (in my college days I was asigned 1919 by itself in a course on 'the radical novel'; nevertheless I recall being immensely impressed), and yet seem even more overwhelming taken as a whole. The structure provides a random consecutiveness--as in one long story chronicling the stages of life of numerous fully developed characters, the random swirl of existence buzzing in the text never content to stop introducing another. At nearly 1300 pages (shortened immensely by a short-story detail sped up by experimental prose poetry and detailed biographical editorials on life and the times of the American world spinning around both character and reader from the turn of the 19th century until the economic collapse of 1929, as well as frequent, crudely effective illustrations that serve more as a break, as a magazine article complete with pictures) the quick pacing and exciting narrative will blaze you through to the end of each section, hungry to scrape in just a few more pages before the inevitability of unconsciousness.
The politics of the book are varied: clearly opinionated yet with a rational outlook that includes the validity of opposing belief. As a result it comes across as remarkably open to human experience and the ways different people take the same things happening to them. I found it endlessly fascinating and have annoyed several people (no doubt by this time including several of you)with endless, endless raves . . .
Okay--I don't take it quite as seriously as that, but more as a document of a time from as many possible angles as a human mind could presume about others.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of those "must read" books that you hear about in any advanced English classes. While Fitzgerald wrote about the wealthy, Dos Passos wrote the stories of those... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kim Crosser
Upon finishing the third of the three novels, I could not help but draw parallels between the time in which the books were set (and written,) the early 20th century, and now, the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by triskaidekaphilia
Dos Passos' style and stories have always fascinated me. His writing is unique and mentally stimulating. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Norma Hayes
A re-reading of a much loved book (trilogy). I bought this copy because I had given my son my original three volume set. Not long after, I decided I had to re-read it. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Arthur Slatkin
Great book, but it was a Christmas present for my boyfriend....who dumped me on New Years day.
I'm not saying this has anything to do with the book, but you know, just... Read more
All I have to say is - wow. Bend your mind to Dos Passos after you've spent too much time reading Hemingway and Bukowski. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Cliff Vegas
Frantic and tedious, didactic and oversimplified, and always faintly artificial, like the characters are not real people, but instead a creaky bunch of marionettes held by a very... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Carol Storm