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The 42nd Parallel (The U.S.A. Trilogy #1)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  3,261 ratings  ·  213 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 326 pages
Published May 25th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1930)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Great American Novel
82nd out of 399 books — 643 voters
The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Best Books of the Decade: 1930s
105th out of 374 books — 578 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Andrew Carnegie started out buying Adams Express and Pullman stock when they were in a slump;
he had confidence in railroads,
he had confidence in communications,
he had confidence in transportation,
he believed in iron.
Andrew Carnegie believed in iron, built bridges Bessemer plants blast furnaces rolling mills;
Andrew Carnegie believed in oil;
Andrew Carnegie believed in steel;
always saved his money
whenever he had a million dollars he invested it.
Andrew Carnegie became the richest man in the world
and
...more
A.J. Howard

I need to qualify my upcoming bold statement with two disclaimers. First off, I'm already on record as being underwhelmed by the hallowed novel I'm about to mention in my forthcoming bold statement. Second, The 42nd Parallel is only the first part of a three volume trilogy that should probably be considered as a whole, and I have only read this volume. But what's the point of writing these reviews if your not going to bring strong opinions. So despite the aforesaid reservations, here it goes: wh

...more
Brian
Dos Passos' legacy, if there is one, is largely understated or forgotten, and, in my view, not necessarily through any major fault of his. In the 20th century, as cultural and aesthetic values shifted to favor more linear, romantic, cinematic storytelling, Dos Passos' vignettes, broad character range, and historical relevance faded into the background to be appreciated primarily by literary aficionados. I think that Hemingway's and Fitzgerald's books would be more easily adaptable to the silver ...more
Rafael
Neste primeiro volume da trilogia USA, onde oscilei até 2/3 do livro entre as 3 e as 4 estrelas, Dos Passos (com ascendência na Ilha da Madeira) aborda os últimos anos do séc. XIX e as primeiras décadas do séc.XX sendo, portanto, uma obra fundamental para a compreensão dos diversos movimentos sociais, políticos e artísticos da época nos EUA (mas também no México e na Europa),terminando-se já em vésperas da entrada dos EUA na IGM. É, inegavelmente, uma obra riquíssima do ponto de vista descritivo ...more
carl  theaker
Must admit, don't think I ever heard of Dos Passos until I started reading this trilogy for the Modern Library top 100, but glad I did. Easy reading format, historical context, and I do like history, about the interesting early part of the century in of course, the USA.

Each chapter is titled with a character's name and each evolves, through their own eyes, and when paths cross, through others. Most characters are carried onto the other books. Supposedly the books can be read on their own, but I
...more
Tony
Dos Pasos, John. THE 42ND PARALLEL. (1930). ****.
I first read this novel, the first of the author’s trilogy, U.S.A., about forty-five years ago, when I was in grad school. I remember that it really knocked me for a loop back then since it was full of new ways of providing the reader with information about time and place of the characters. Dos Pasos used techniques that I hadn’t seen before: Newsreel excerpts in bold print and asides he called “The Camera’s Eye.” The novel itself tells the story
...more
David
Jun 25, 2008 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: whomever
Okay, so this book is dated. And sometimes I am tempted to give a dated book extra credit because I get to study history while reading a story with plot and characters.
I liked this book a lot, it makes me want to read more from the period... except I think I may have already read some stories from this period! Which would suggest that this book is better than those other books I read and forgot.
This book tells a story that is very broad - in geography for one, there are characters that in their
...more
Mike
Stop searching, THIS is the great American novel... but "novel" doesn't really do it justice. It's a panoramic portrait of America in the first decades of the 20th century. Dos Passos' characters chase, in myriad ways, their American Dreams, as the nation rapidly matures in its new identity as an urban, commercial, world power. There is no plot here- the book, like so much other art of the time, is, in form as well as substance, something entirely new- a novel novel. The characters surge forward ...more
Mike
A better title for this chore would be “NOW! That’s What I Call America.” I'll get to that later.

The 42nd Parallel is unique and groundbreaking in that, for its time, it found new and interesting ways to bore its reader to tears. First, it relentlessly bludgeons its reader with its annoyingly liberal usage of free indirect speech. Rather than giving its characters voice and motion, The 42nd Parallel prides itself on summary, exposition, and trading off engagement for its crappy style. Second, it
...more
matt

Manic, vibrant, socially conscious, epic, crowded, busy, sweaty, angry, clear-eyed idealism, rowdy, tragic, subjective, objective, infinitely small, buzzing, slashing, eponymous, snide, pathos, scattershot, fecund, inspirational, landmark, surging, colorful, explosive, magnificent.

I'm almost holding back on the next two installments since I don't want to be dissapointed. This one's a corker.

The first two pages is some of the greatest prose I've ever laid eyes on. What I hope will be my life's ph
...more
Adam
The most effective way to approach history, this book shows, is through a time's language. A plain collection of facts may as well be lies.
Offuscatio
Personajes como marionetas al servicio de su ideología política.
Rasmus Skovdal
The 42nd Parallel, by John Dos Passos

I don't really have anything to add that hasn't been said before, and probably better than I can say it.

Short insights into the lives of various characters in the early 20th century that at times become intervowen, but are generally self-contained.

They are thematically linked – this is the struggle for money and a place in the world, but also often tales of people who are trying to free themselves from something; the previous generation, expectations, a pre
...more
Mark Sacha
Dos Passos combines a straightforward sort of neorealist succession of character sketches with impressionistic prose pieces to assemble an image of early twentieth century America - the trilogy's ambitions are boldly suggested in its title, and it's worth running with that for a while. As one might expect, there are plenty who don't make the cut, and in that it's faithful to history. The principle characters are young, European, and highly mobile. Blacks, Mexicans, Jews, etc., receive less than ...more
Kristin
http://kristinsbookblog.blogspot.com/...

First, as an introduction to Dos Passos, who – if you are anything like I was until recently (and only because of my book list obsession) – you have never heard of, some quotes:

“[He’s:] the greatest living writer of our time.” -Jean Paul Sartre, 1938

“Dos Passos came nearer than any of us to writing the Great American Novel, and it’s entirely possible he succeeded. I can only say, from my own point of view, that no novel I read while in college stimulated m
...more
Schuyler
If I had to use one word to describe my feelings overall towards this book it would be disappointing. I had high hopes for this 'classic' but they were quickly dashed. I was duped by all of the praise it has recieved from critics and writers. Sometimes it's hard to go back in experimental fiction, toward its infancy and simply not have the patience that it requires. One of the narrative devices Passos uses is Headlines from the time period and brief newspaper clippings, and about half way throug ...more
Leo Walsh
If you were to ask a literati in the 1940's what American authors would still be read in 2013, Dos Passos would have been mentioned in some amazing company: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. But I had never read him. The closest I came was a science fiction classic, Stand on Zanzibar , which used Dos Passos' techniques. I though pretty average, so was sort of lukewarm at the thought of pulling The 42nd Parallel off the shelf.

So I was shocked when I dusted it off, and cracked open the
...more
Alec Sieber
The narrative body portions are kinda a slog. The best way to get through them is mostly to power through them in a rush, reading them in breathless internal monologue. I realize this is the effect that Dos Passos was going for, and he succeeded at evoking the uncentered rhythms of boring ol' life, but it doesn't always make for interesting reading. I also realize it was also his intention to make his characters all relatively vapid, uninteresting people. Once again, Dos Passo's success in this ...more
Jackesk
Apr 18, 2008 Jackesk rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who like: Keruoac, Hemingway and Faulkner
A vivid, detailed slice of Americana set right before the dawn of World War I. The 42nd Parellel traces the growth and development of four different characters, their goals continuously shifting based on circumstances both personal and economic.

Some swallow their misgivings and become locked into jobs and marriages that they only partially care for, some pursue entrepreneurial dreams that are bleak at times and invigorating at others, and some characters just become aimlessly lost in every sense
...more
Overthemoon
This book was a Labor (pun intended) to read. To be fair, I think something may have been lost in the e-book translation versus print. The author had different chapter constructions all through the book, some of which (old newspaper headlines) would have resonated the feel of the times better in ink on paper. Overall, I found the different chapters styles and points of view very distracting...just as I was finally bonding with a character, they were abandoned for yet another new addition and sto ...more
Dick Tumpes
Another great writer unread by Me until I'm 77. So, I'm waiting anxiously for the Pima County Library to email me with an invitation to pick up my reserved copy of Nineteen Nineteen. Then The Big Money for the trifecta!
Gail Strickland
Once I got past the strange construction, it turned into a 4 star book.
Mike Moore
I always appreciate an artist who bucks a trend, especially when they do so with full awareness. Dos Passos uses diverse tools (stream of consciousness, poetic collages, realist narrative) but dedicates himself to an explicitly structured approach that is uniquely his own. I've seen it aped in Stand on Zanzibar, but that was a pale reflection or something that here, even when it doesn't completely work, is a brave and incongruous set of experiments. It is particularly interesting to view this in ...more
Francisco
Más ambición que ejecución. Y seguramente la culpa no sea de Dos Passos, que hizo lo que le dio la gana, tal y como le era legítimo, sino de los críticos que han puesto su obra por los cielos.
Como con Manhattan Transfer, esta novela tiene más valor como idea que como producto. ¿A quién no le interesa reflejar la complejidad de una sociedad efervescente, los destinos de gente que se mezcla y se ven afectados por su tiempo, las noticias que marcan destinos? El problema viene si para lograr todo e
...more
1.1
Definitely good, reading it was a pleasure and I blew through it in only a couple of days. It's a great blend of artsy nigh-Joycean sequences, Newsreel sequences to give a chaotic idea of the era, biographies of luminaries, and narratives about finely drawn, if archetypal characters. That structure works quite well, each a fresh gust of content that keeps the whole novel moving quickly and most interestingly. The language is specifically old-school in the ways you'd expect: great old-timey slang ...more
Kristi Richardson
I wanted to try this USA Trilogy and see if it was as dated as some reviewers say. Since this is an oral history of the United States from the 1900's-1930's I didn't find it dated at all. It seemed very accurate on what people were thinking and saying at that time.

This first book ends when the US gets into World War I. It has a very unique style. There is a fictional narrative which tells the story of 5 characters in this book, a total of 11 in the Trilogy. We meet Mac, Janey, Eleanor, J.Ward Mo
...more
Robin
This is the first part of a three part series called USA that I am reading for the 1,000 Books to read before you Die listing. Honestly, if I wasn't reading this with the group, I would have given up multiple times. In the end, I did like some of the stories and found them interesting to read. But the whole format was very distracting to read.

I will have to consider reading the other two books in the series. At least I have a little bit to decide.
Amanda
I was in love with them all -- JDP's five American originals who pull themselves up by the bootstraps seeking their various fortunes, the incidental newsreel and camera-eye people who never show up again, and Dos Passos himself. Then there's the language: both lyrical and economical, elegantly covering years of time in the space of a paragraph. READ HIM.
José
Um livro sobre o capitalismo do primeiro quartel do século XX nos EUA. Acompanha a história de várias personagens com origens e percursos diferentes que, para além de algumas coincidências espaço-temporais, têm muito mais em comum do que poderá parecer.
Não, o livro não diz isto explicitamente, nem o que pensar sobre seja o que for: graças a Deus!
Só a última das personagens - um apêndice à obra principal, tão tarde que se apresenta - aparenta divergir do padrão de todos os outros; pelo menos ao m
...more
Lee Razer
This was a major disappointment. The USA Trilogy has been in the back of my mind as one of those "I'll read that for sure one of these days" works for 15 years or so. 80 some odd years after its publication it is still mentioned as contender for the Great American Novel. Well, after reading this, the first volume, I don't join that chorus.

Dos Passos famously uses four different modes of writing in this work. The most conventional one, which is the main body of text, follows the youth and adulth
...more
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Does anyone know why Dos Passos titled it 42nd Parallel? 4 22 Jan 30, 2014 05:39AM  
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4778
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
...more
More about John Dos Passos...

Other Books in the Series

The U.S.A. Trilogy (3 books)
  • 1919 (U.S.A., #2)
  • The Big Money (U.S.A., #3)
U.S.A., #1-3 Manhattan Transfer 1919 (U.S.A., #2) The Big Money (U.S.A., #3) Three Soldiers

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“The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armour of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error." -John Dos Passos” 7 likes
“The young man walks by himself, fast but not fast enough, far but not far enough (faces slide out of sight, talk trails into tattered scraps, footsteps tap fainter in alleys); he must catch the last subway, the streetcar, the bus, run up the gangplanks of all the steamboats, register at all the hotels, work in the cities, answer the wantads, learn the trades, take up the jobs, live in all the boardinghouses, sleep in all the beds. One bed is not enough, one job is not enough, one life is not enough. At night, head swimming with wants, he walks by himself alone.” 6 likes
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