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

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  3,018 ratings  ·  193 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
79th out of 359 books — 599 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
100th out of 361 books — 543 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
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
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
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
Offuscatio
Personajes como marionetas al servicio de su ideología política.
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
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
Gail Strickland
Once I got past the strange construction, it turned into a 4 star book.
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
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.
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
James (JD) Dittes
To understand America in 2014, one must understand what it was 100 years ago. That was when the momentous decisions were made--on war, on labor, on women's rights, on civil rights--decisions that defined the country in which we live today.

Now understand this: America had a chronicler at work in John Dos Passos who captured what was "really" going on in the country, layers below the Carnegies, the Roosevelts and others in whom history puts its trust. In creating The 42nd Parallel, Dos Passos uses
...more
Ron Davidson
Not much of a plot (none, really), but it is good at presenting the tenor and mood of the times, from the turn of the 20th century to the First World War, a significant turning point in American society, and one I'd like to know more about. I plan to read the next book in the trilogy (1919) soon.
Ahmad Sharabiani
606. U.S.A., John Dos Passos
ینگه دنیا - جان دس‌ پاسوس (هاشمی) ادبیات جلد یک از سه
مدار 42 با اخباری آغاز میشود که شامل ترانه‌های عامیانه، سرعنوان روزنامه‌ها و هيجان و تب و تاب کشور در آغاز قرن بیستم است
Kristopher
This is already one of the most affecting books I've read in years. It's beautifully conceived, wonderfully written. I never wanted it to end. I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.
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.
Kimberly
The characters in this book are individual fragments of the larger social puzzle leading up to World War. There is no interior exploration, no multi-dimensionality of character psychology, and no indication that the narrator desires that his reader connect emotionally with the characters. Dos Passos uses current event headlines (“newsreels”), stream-of-consciousness snapshots (“camera eye”), and an expository journalistic style to interweave the complementary stories of Janey, Ward, Eleanor, and ...more
Jim Thomas
Dec 18, 2014 Jim Thomas rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: if interested in Modern Library's 100 greatest novels.
Shelves: read-2014
This book, the 1st in the U.S.A. Trilogy stands as a totally different approach and style. The novel uses headlines of the time, using the technique of the newsreel which was still being used up into the fifties and I personally recall it. It was before most people had TVs (early newsreels no one had a TV) The newsreel had quick headlines such as one statement, a phrase, maybe a single word such as "Strike!" The newsreels were accompanied by music and the music was sometimes part of the news suc ...more
Luca

"Sarebbe stata una bella vita, se non fosse stato innamorato" (trad C. Pavese.

Mi piace la traduzione di Pavese, anche se non ho mai letto l'originale. Quindi meglio dire che mi piace il tono generale che Pavese dà alla narrazione.

Il libro ha 4 livelli di lettura. Quelli che io preferisco sono il romanzo tradizionale e le biografie brevi (queste ultime mi ricordano un poco Whitman e anche Lee Masters). Non capisco il "cinegiornale", scrittura sperimentale, in pratica un mosaico di parti di artic
...more
Robert Palmer
Reading this book is somewhat like reading the Daley Tribune in the early 1900s and is really a social history of that time period . This is the first volume of three that starts at just about the start of the century and ends with The start of the Great War (WW 1)
It is told through alternating stories of five people who sometimes come in contact with each other. Their names being Mac,Janey,J.Ward Woodhouse,Eleanor Studdad and Charley Anderson as each in their own way try's to make their way in
...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
Ryan
Though John dos Passos hasn’t retained the fame of Hemingway or Fitzgerald, his America trilogy still feels like a landmark work of the Jazz Age, a sprawling, panoramic documentary of the US of the early 20th century. Like his contemporaries, Dos Passos writes in a common, everyday vernacular, with an eye and ear for realism, but also mixes in more experimental, modernist passages, such as streams of newspaper headlines and song lyrics, short biopics of various public figures, and the impression ...more
Samantha
It took me awhile to get used to the newsreels, but after I realized that they were actual snippets from the Chicago Trib during the time of writing, I had an easier time understanding them and connecting them to the action of the narrative sections. As for those narrative sections, they were far more captivating than I had originally expected them to be. I was constantly anxious to find out what happened to the characters next, and when Janey and Mac reappeared after having been absent for seve ...more
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Does anyone know why Dos Passos titled it 42nd Parallel? 4 21 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...
U.S.A. Manhattan Transfer 1919 The Big Money Three Soldiers

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Luther Burbank was born in a brick farmhouse in Lancaster Mass,
he walked through the woods one winter
crunching through the shinycrusted snow
stumbling into a little dell where a warm spring was
and found the grass green and weeds sprouting
and skunk cabbage pushing up a potent thumb,
He went home and sat by the stove and read Darwin
Struggle for Existence Origin of Species Natural
Selection that wasn't what they taught in church,
so Luther Burbank ceased to believe moved to Lunenburg,
found a seedball in a potato plant
sowed the seed and cashed in on Darwin’s Natural Selection
on Spencer and Huxley
with the Burbank potato.

Young man go west;
Luther Burbank went to Santa Rosa
full of his dream of green grass in winter ever-
blooming flowers ever-
bearing berries; Luther Burbank
could cash in on Natural Selection Luther Burbank
carried his apocalyptic dream of green grass in winter
and seedless berries and stoneless plums and thornless roses brambles cactus—
winters were bleak in that bleak
brick farmhouse in bleak Massachusetts—
out to sunny Santa Rosa;
and he was a sunny old man
where roses bloomed all year
everblooming everbearing
hybrids.

America was hybrid
America could cash in on Natural Selection.
He was an infidel he believed in Darwin and Natural
Selection and the influence of the mighty dead
and a good firm shipper’s fruit
suitable for canning.
He was one of the grand old men until the churches
and the congregations
got wind that he was an infidel and believed
in Darwin.
Luther Burbank had never a thought of evil,
selected improved hybrids for America
those sunny years in Santa Rosa.
But he brushed down a wasp’s nest that time;
he wouldn’t give up Darwin and Natural Selection
and they stung him and he died
puzzled.
They buried him under a cedartree.
His favorite photograph
was of a little tot
standing beside a bed of hybrid
everblooming double Shasta daisies
with never a thought of evil
And Mount Shasta
in the background, used to be a volcano
but they don’t have volcanos
any more.”
6 likes
“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” 6 likes
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