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The Big Money: Volume Three of the U.S.A. Trilogy Paperback – May 25, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the U.S.A. Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The single greatest novel any of us have written, yes, in this country in the last one hundred years." -- Norman Mailer

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Product Details

  • Series: U.S.A. Trilogy (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Mariner Books Ed edition (May 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618056831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618056835
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lonya VINE VOICE on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
So says John Dos Passos in `The Big Money", Volume III of his USA Trilogy. Just as Benjamin Disraeli saw two nations in mid-19th century Britain ("who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws...the rich and the poor"), John Dos Passos saw two nations in the United States in the roaring 1920s.

Dos Passos is one of the (sadly lesser known literary giants of the 20th-century. At the height of his fame in the 1930s he found himself on the same pedestal as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. The first two volumes of the USA Trilogy (42nd Parallel and 1919) were enormous successes. By the time "The Big Money" was released in 1936, Jean-Paul Sartre hailed him as "the greatest writer of our time". 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." Dos Passos' literary reputation began to change during the Spanish Civil War. Dos Passos, along with Hemingway and many other literary figures including George Orwell made his way to Spain to assist in the Republican cause. Like Orwell, Dos Passos was deeply affected by the brutal infighting amongst Republican supporters. In the case of Dos Passos he was deeply distressed by murder of a friend (anarchist and Johns Hopkins Professor Jose Robles) apparently executed by Stalinist cadres for his nonconforming radicalism. Hemingway mocked Dos Passos for his unmanly concern for his friend. Hemingway's friends and most of the hard left literary community joined in. It is no surprise that Dos Passos' next book was criticized severely.
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Format: Paperback
This 1931 novel has long been one of my favorites among Wodehouse's many novels. It's a mix of farce and romantic comedy; whereas in much of Wodehouse's later work, the love plots seem almost perfunctory, here the romance between English Berry Conway and American Ann Moon (Wodehouse loved to work in trans-continental romances for his American readers) takes up much of the novel and is given a sweetness and warmth not always apparent in Wodehouse's funny, but sometimes slightly mechanical, post-WWII work. Of course, there's plenty of farcical action too, including many inspired sequences set in Wodehouse's "Valley Fields" (a thinly disguised version of the London suburb Dulwich). The hilarious chapter in which Lord Hoddesdon visits Valley Fields - and runs into a menacing fellow with an admiration for Stalin - is alone worth the price of this wonderful book.
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Format: Paperback
I LOVE Wodehouse. I have this system where I try to read really thick "smart" books. You know, like the kind you bring up when you're trying to impress people with your intellectual prowess ("Oh yes, I completely agree. In fact, in the 'Metaphysics of Morals', Kant says basically the same thing, albeit more obtusely.") When my brains slither out through my ears in protest, that's when I know that it is time to put down the philosophy and pick up a Wodehouse. They're insanely funny and impossibly witty, and it gives me time to collect the pieces of my gray matter and shove them back in my head for another go at snooty intellectualism.
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Format: Paperback
Stacked up against other Lost Generation contemporaries like Hemingway or Fitzgerald, Dos Passos strikes a more minor key. His characters are unmemorable, his prose flat to the point of journalese, and his stabs at experiment, like the "Newsreels" interleafed between chapters, are so much chrome on some otherwise pretty conventional novelistic fenders.

But I think that limited scope is also a strength in his masterpiece, the USA Trilogy. With singleminded determination Dos Passos hammers together, scene by scene and newsreel by newsreel, a stark portrait of the Twenties as an era of greed, confusion, and above all a kind of free floating moral emptiness, a big, powerful, rudderless America cruising blithely on the froth of events. He shows you how the small guys get crushed without wallowing in a lot of sentiment about it, and how the fat cats alternately sleeken or decline into a sea of booze and betrayed ideals without resorting to cartoon stereotypes of `the Man'. You feel sorry for almost everyone on some level in this story, though Dos Passos keeps his lens distant enough to avoid pity, or the tragic glamour of a Jay Gatsby, in order to focus on the larger outlines of the postwar, post-Puritan world his specimens move in.

You don't need to read the preceding books in the Trilogy to enjoy The Big Money. It picks up the characters from the other two volumes, but the novel isn't really so much about these people as it is about the busts and bubbles that push them through history. It'll be hard to look at the Twenties as the colorful era of flappers, speakeasies, and the Charleston again after reading The Big Money; Dos Passos exposes the postwar malaise behind the excess in a way that brought to mind parallels with our own post 9/11 USA. I wonder who's our Dos Passos today? Maybe a filmmaker?
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