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The Big Money: Volume Three of the U.S.A. Trilogy Paperback – May 25, 2000
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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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.Read more ›
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?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This novel is often on lists of the greatest books and praised for its experimental writing style. I understand why it gets the praise, but while reading it I was either bored out... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
One minute we're talking about a drunken womanizer, the next we're being told the life story of Henry Ford. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Robert
Good reads last part of a long seemingly disconnected trilogy reflecting an era.Published 6 months ago by David Sliwkoski
A book that transfers some of the days' media styles and weaves them into a layered story of characters with whom we can relate. Read morePublished 13 months ago by The Wizard
“The Big Money” is the final book in John Dos Passos’s vast “USA” trilogy. It covers the years just after the end of World War I as America enters the roaring twenties. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Andrew Desmond
I am a fan of Dos Passos. Bought this for daughter's stepson. Don't know how he would rate it (or even if he read it)/Published 17 months ago by June Conway
I struggled over whether to give this book just 1 star or 2, and eventually decided to give it 2 only because I think it makes a solid point about happiness and behavior in America... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Richard Bon