The 42nd Parallel: Volume One of the U.S.A. Trilogy
With his U.S.A. trilogy, comprising THE 42nd PARALLEL, 1919, and THE BIG MONEY, John Dos Passos is said by many to have written the great American novel. While Fitzgerald and Hemingway were cultivating what Edmund Wilson once called their "own little corners," John Dos Passos was taking on the world. Counted as one of the best novels of the twentieth century by the Modern Library and by some of the finest writers working today, U.S.A. is a grand, kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation, buzzing with history and life on every page.
The trilogy opens with THE 42nd PARALLEL, where we find a young country at the dawn of the twentieth century. Slowly, in stories artfully spliced together, the lives and fortunes of five characters unfold. Mac, Janey, Eleanor, Ward, and Charley are caught on the storm track of this parallel and blown New Yorkward. As their lives cross and double back again, the likes of Eugene Debs, Thomas Edison, and Andrew Carnegie make cameo appearances.
A Brilliant, overlooked work of American fiction
By Leonard Fleisig "Len" - April 14, 2006
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... read more
A realisitc and unforgiving look at America before WWI.
By A Customer - November 18, 1999
This is the first volume of the USA trilogy. It takes some effort to read because of the innovative form the author uses to relate what America was like before WWI. He centers his book around the lives of several central characters and their adventures. Interspersed biographies of famous Americans like Henry Ford are fascinating. The illustrations by (I can't remember the artist's name) are American classics and are of great value in appreciating the text. The 42nd Parallel was known as the major storm path across North America. Dos Passos tracks the gritty lives of the working and middle class Americans with whom he identifies. His detailed map of our national life shows the great divide between our material well-being today and the struggle for existence waged by working class Americans before the New Deal. Great characterizations and descriptions of early 20th century USA.
USA Trilogy - Part I
By A. Ross - January 18, 2006
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... read more