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Manhattan Transfer

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  3,248 Ratings  ·  257 Reviews
Considered by many to be John Dos Passos's greatest work, Manhattan Transfer is an "expressionistic picture of New York" (New York Times) in the 1920s that reveals the lives of wealthy power brokers and struggling immigrants alike. From Fourteenth Street to the Bowery, Delmonico's to the underbelly of the city waterfront, Dos Passos chronicles the lives of characters strug ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published September 2nd 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 1925)
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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldWinnie-the-Pooh by A.A. MilneSiddhartha by Hermann HesseSteppenwolf by Hermann HesseAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Best Books of the Decade: 1920's
91st out of 387 books — 916 voters
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Trial by Franz KafkaCarry on, Jeeves by P.G. WodehouseThe Secret of Chimneys by Agatha ChristieMrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Best Books of 1925
12th out of 32 books — 42 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kim
Sep 21, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: maurice
I’m going to pull a GJ (Ginnie Jones) here and state:

”Manhattan Transfer is a kaleidoscopic portrait of New York City in the first two decades of the 20th century that follows the changing fortunes of more than a dozen characters as they strive to make sense out of the chaos of modern urban existence.”

Yeah, so that’s really what you need to know if you, you know, want the breakdown. Of course, I need to add my own two cents. ( Of course)

Reading this was an act of love. My husband has tried for
...more
Michael
Dec 08, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dos-passos
It might be difficult to understand this novel if you've never lived in a large city. Dos Passos captures the chaos and disorientation of trying to survive in an urban battlefield, with all its violence, interruptions, temptations, anonymity, stimuli, and speed by writing in a still experimental modern style of cut-ups, fragments, and stream of consciousness. Manhattan Transfer's ferociously exciting to read, not only because it so accurately represents the physical sensations of modernity in ju ...more
Stela
Mar 09, 2015 Stela rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stela by: Fewlas

How can be explained the complicated and fascinating relationship between the city and the narrator in all major Modernist works whose theme is urbanity? Think of James Joyce’s Dublin, dull and suffocating, with its Evelyns forever clued on the shore they dare not leave. Think of Henry Miller’s Paris, with its siren song that entangles the artists to better devour them. Think of Virginia Woolf’s London, collecting thoughts and fates in the glimpse of a park, the rush of a street, the passing of
...more
Lisa
Aug 29, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I had avoided Dos Passos novels for fear that they would be deadeningly political. Was I ever wrong? This book is wonderfully enjoyable. Told in impressionistic vignettes the book moves quickly as stars on the Manhattan stage rise and fall. Dos Passos indictment of the materialism and soulessness of turn of the century New York is told with neither sentiment nor heartlessness, but falls in a middle ground-dispassionate.

The time frames can be confusing. For instance, in the beginning the book,th
...more
Alex
Of two best TV shows of this century, Breaking Bad is a deep character study; The Wire is a deep city study. Breaking Bad is about people; The Wire is about systems, architecture, an entire structure from the top to the bottom. That's a tough trick to pull off. It's not very inviting; there are necessarily many characters, some of whom you don't get to spend much time with, and it's hard to get into a story that keeps shifting under you. (This is also why nonfiction history books are way more ...more
Writerlibrarian
Now that's a whole other kind of fiction. Something to cherish and treasure. It reads like a movie but the good kind. It doesn't really have a plot instead it follows the lives of a few characters throughout the years in early 1900, through WW1 and right before the 1929 crash but you can feel it coming. Written in 1925, translated in French in 1928, it still is as interesting and vibrant as it was then. New York shines through all the pages. Dark and light, how the richs live and how the poors ...more
Gabriele
Oct 18, 2015 Gabriele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dove accadono le cose

Scegliere un punto da cui iniziare questa recensione è stato molto difficile, e non tanto per le 400 pagine fitte fitte in carattere minuscolo che compongono questo "Manhattan Transfer", quanto per il numero di personaggi e di situazioni che vanno a costruire una trama tanto intricata quanto inestricabile. Se però c'è una cosa che ho imparato, a me che piace perdere tempo dietro puzzle da migliaia di tessere, è che per fare un puzzle, per quanto sia complesso, magari puoi pa
...more
Elalma
Nov 02, 2015 Elalma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nordamericana
Non un briciolo di senso artistico, non un bel monumento, non atmosfera storica: ecco New York. Sarà, ma allora perché questo libro esplode di energia, ritmo frenetico, voglia di nuovo? Anche se fin dall'inizio si capisce che non è possibile ricordare tutti i personaggi -forse ricordiamo tutte le persone sedute dietro di noi a un ristorante o che salgono e scendono dai tram? - si viene attratti dalla varietà di storie e microstorie e di come sono raccontate in poche parole con tanti dialoghi che ...more
Holly
Bustling, jumpy and intense. For me, Manhattan Transfer was a different reading experience than I'm used to, but in a good way! Looking deep into New York life, you never get a sense that you're standing still, in the moment. There's always things going on around the single bit of narrative you're reading. Dos Passos' writing directly places you there, with fleeting looks at characters and detailed descriptions of the busy city. I, surprisingly, liked the complexity of this novel. It's not every ...more
James
Jan 14, 2016 James rated it it was amazing

The ferry-slip. A ferry, and a newborn baby. A young man comes to the metropolis and the story begins. It is a story of that metropolis: "The world's second metropolis." But it is really the latest in a line that extends backward in time to "Nineveh . . Athens . . . Rome . . . Constantinople . ." and others since.

John Dos Passos presents stories of some of the people who call this metropolis, Manhattan, home near the beginning of the twentieth century. The novel is about New Yorkers and their st
...more
Alun Williams
Aug 02, 2011 Alun Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now we are post credit-crunch this is probably a very good time to read this unusual American novel. At times it was hard to believe that Manhattan Transfer is describing the New York of 80+ years ago, so contemporary did it sometimes feel to me. The blurb on the back implies it is a novel about early 20's N.Y., but this is rather inaccurate. My grasp of history is not good enough to be precise, but the story certainly spans a period of over twenty years, and only reaches the 20s in the third of ...more
Sarah
Dec 08, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those disillusioned by Gatsby
"There are lives to be lived if only you didn't care."

I have to stop comparing books and authors (or at least stop doing it as superficially as I do) but I can't help it with this 1925 expressionist montage of many lives clinging to Manhattan, sinking or swimming, giving up, going on, changing their names, caring for all the wrong things (apparently), battered by luck and buffeted by economics, war and desire. The bottom line is (I think) the randomness of our lives, and how little New York care
...more
James Murphy
Sep 19, 2016 James Murphy rated it really liked it
A Babel of voices. The reality of a whole made from a myriad of parts. Using the many stories of a wide assortment of characters to make a portrait of New York City in the early years of the 20th century, its device of character snapshots to tell the story reminded me most of Camilo Jose Cela's novel The Hive, which does the same thing for Madrid. Not as ambitious as the USA Trilogy, but it is considered by some to be Dos Passos's greatest work.
Andrés Cabrera
Jul 25, 2015 Andrés Cabrera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Manhattan Transfer procura ser el relato de la vida de una ciudad: de su crecimiento, transformación y fluctuación. Para ello, la ciudad muestra sus tentáculos en las vidas que se cruzan y se disuelven, que juegan a la felicidad y se esmeran a dejarlo todo por cumplir cada uno de sus sueños; sueños que, dicho sea, se permiten en virtud de todo lo que una ciudad en crecimiento (como viene siendo Nueva York en la década de 1920). El relato es fragmentario y cruzado: cada personaje tiene una ...more
Barbara
Jun 14, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to see why this is considered a masterpiece. Dos Passos has painted a picture of New York City from the Gilded Age to the 20's. The actual plot wasn't that fascinating, but the writing style was exceptional. Using short prose-poems to begin each chapter, vignettes of people's lives, quotations from popular songs of the day, overheard conversations, newspaper headlines and more, we get a powerful portrait of the city.

It's a portrait that could be considered anti-establishment. I know th
...more
the gift
things this book made me think of: difficulty of representation of dialect (the book is easy to read but endlessly dialogue), of character sketches (there are so many, so varied), of plot represented by vignettes (like watching dancing routines in tenement windows from a passing elevated train), of trying to integrate, emulate, all the noise, confusion, of the chaotic modern city (in a determinedly modernist way), of how in our urban multiplicity it is not surprising some readers like immersive, ...more
Jorge
Oct 04, 2016 Jorge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Podríamos decir que se trata de una novela casi clásica de la literatura la literatura mundial que tiene la particularidad de que el protagonista por primera vez no es una o unas personas, sino que es una ciudad: Nueva York de principios del siglo XX. John Dos Passos contemporáneo y amigo de Heminghway, entre otros, ha dejado este libro al mundo que se considera un clásico de la literatura del siglo XX, ya que en él se describen muchos pasajes de la vida cotidiana de todo tipo de personajes que ...more
Maria Beltrami
Ho desiderato tanto leggere questo libro. Una voce nuova e diversa dalla generazione perduta. Una voce dall'America della generazione perduta. E in parte ne ho ricavato soddisfazione, perché Dos Passos è un mirabile cantore di una metropolitanità folle, fatta di un sottobosco di piccoli imbroglioni, ubriachi, attricette più o meno troie, gente che tira a campare e affaristi che vanno dalle stalle alle stelle e viceversa in un battito di ciglia. Solo in parte, perché, nonostante quella in mio ...more
Francesca
Mar 31, 2012 Francesca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Avendo avuto la fortuna di visitare New York, percepisco alla perfezione come ogni pagina di questo libro riveli ancor oggi gli “splendori e miserie” di una città così multiforme e straordinaria che non si può non idolatrare, ma nemmeno non rimanerne inorriditi. Parole che si fanno odori, calore, luce, vetro, rumori…, trascinando con sé le esistenze umane più disparate, accomunate dall’accalcarsi febbrile nella “città che sale” (per dirla con Boccioni).
New York è l’inferno e il paradiso, è la te
...more
C Mac
Oct 01, 2011 C Mac rated it really liked it
Hello Everybody

been meaning to try
Manhattan Transfer
for about 20 years

Manhattan
told in a hundred or so very short stories
that connect,
don't connect
inter connect
and re connect
don't even try
to think of this as one story
its hundreds of plots
each with a life of its own
characters
come and go
some appear
never to be seen again
some appear to be seen fifty or more pages later

easy to lose track
where you are
but it's almost as if
it does not matter
open the book
to any page
find yourself
sucked in to a little s
...more
Andrew
A literary landmark, even if I didn't especially enjoy it half as much as the fucking luminary USA Trilogy. Interlocking characters, storylines, vignettes, these are all things I generally like, but the thing doesn't cohere, and while there's definitely such a thing as delightful incoherence and ample room for the weird and unknowable (The Crying of Lot 49, Antonioni's Blow-Up, the most recent Kanye West album), Manhattan Transfer doesn't quite make it. Still, it's admirable as a modernist ...more
Michael Meeuwis
Apr 06, 2015 Michael Meeuwis rated it it was amazing
Here's someone I wanted to read for ages and finally got around to--happy that I did. Dos Passos falls into the semi-classic lefty bind of making what he's ostensibly critiquing also seem awesome: his descriptions of the interiors of the wealthy make them seem amazing, even with the smart set throwing up in wastepaper baskets in the midst of these interiors. The novel sort of makes you spit out cliches in describing it, as it is in fact big, sprawling, Joycean, less about characters than about ...more
Nick
Mar 30, 2016 Nick rated it liked it
Shelves: uiowa
Funny, bloated socialist pamphlet masquerading as experimental Modernist novel. Gain and drops characters at will, as New York does. A portrait of a city in the pangs of rebirth. Pretty images and a memorable ensemble (we will always love you, Emile!).
Bill Wallace
Jun 05, 2016 Bill Wallace rated it liked it
Like a dress rehearsal for USA, Manhattan Transfer is a collection of sketches of life in New York City, mostly following the story of two characters and moments in the lives of many others. Without the scope of USA but employing some of the same narrative techniques, flights of near hallucinogenic reverie, a soundtrack of popular tunes, advertisements, and chatter, this book is more of a microcosm than the epic history of Dos Passos' masterpiece. I enjoyed it well enough -- some of the passages ...more
David
Oct 01, 2010 David rated it really liked it
It is amazing how so many different voices are followed, threaded together through the narrative, to tell a story about what it was to be a person alive at that time and at that place as opposed to just the story of a single person or even any of the particular characters. There are so many hops and jumps it can be a bit difficult to remember who is who and when, especially since characters can change sometimes fairly drastically between their portions, but overall the effect is well handled. I ...more
Eveline Chao
Great read, compelling portrait of the Gilded Age as told through many different characters. (Though I found it hard to get into for the first few chapters because of how it skips around through so many characters.) Gives a strong sense of it as this really exciting time when people were ambitious and it felt like anything could happen, but also a time when life was edged with darkness and despair as it became apparent to more and more people that not everyone was going to "get theirs" and all ...more
Richard Epstein
Jul 19, 2016 Richard Epstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the last, say, 75 years, has anyone ever read this book who wasn't assigned it in a class? I suspect not, and that's a shame. It's effective, if not exactly moving (Dos Passos didn't really do "moving"), and a hell of a lot shorter than the U.S.A. trilogy. And it was written when JDP was young, long before he began campaigning for Richard Nixon.

Manhattan Transfer, the musical group, took its name from Dos Passos's novel, but can be distinguished by its close harmonies. Dos Passos didn't do cl
...more
Andy
Jun 27, 2008 Andy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people with a lot of patience
This book was kind of disappointing and a few of the reviews for the book from other GoodReaders are correct. The book wants to be a sprawling epic of New York life, but so many people are dog-piled one after another it's maddening. I can handle characters intersecting but to introduce even newer characters within the last thirty pages is plain bad writing.
I also didn't think many of the characters were fleshed-out enough so their outcomes left me cold. It's hard to sympathize with people who ar
...more
Melanie
Jan 25, 2008 Melanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-lit
I totally hated the process of reading this book; stylistically, it's too choppy and disconnected for my taste. To be fair, though, I'm not a huge fan of American modernism, so I was predisposed to not like the book.

That said, though, the book as a whole is formally amazing, even if it wasn't my cupy of tea. The character development mimics the structural form which informs the character development...You get the idea.

If only I hadn't had to read the entire book to get there.
Feuerfux
Nov 30, 2016 Feuerfux rated it liked it
Sehr intensiv & technisch clever gemacht; New York erwacht, indem Dos Passos auffährt, was die Collagetechnik zu bieten hat: Zeitungsartikel, Lieder, prosaische Erzählung, Regieanweisung und unzählige Perspektiven produzieren eine Atmosphäre, dank der man das Wasser des Hudson riechen kann (ok, der Hudson ist jetzt vielleicht nicht jedermanns Sache).
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Bright Young Things: June 2016- Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos 49 18 Jun 28, 2016 10:01AM  
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John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.

He received a first-class education at The Choate School, in Connecticut, in 1907, under the name John Roderigo Madison. Later, he traveled with his tutor on a tour through France, England, Italy, Greece and the Middle East to study classical art, architecture and literature.

In 1912 he attended Harvard University and, after graduating in
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“The terrible thing about having New York go stale on you is that there's nowhere else. It's the top of the world.” 4 likes
“Do you know how long God took to destroy the Tower of Babel, folks? Seven minutes. Do you know how long the Lord God took to destroy Babylon and Nineveh? Seven minutes. There’s more wickedness in one block in New York City than there was in a square mile in Nineveh, and how long do you think the Lord God of Sabboath will take to destroy New York City and Brooklyn and the Bronx? Seven seconds. Seven Seconds.” 2 likes
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