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Manhattan Transfer

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  2,809 ratings  ·  220 reviews
Using experimental montage techniques borrowed from the cinema, descriptions and bursts of overheard conversation, and jumbled case histories of a picaresque cast of characters from dockside crapshooters to high-society flappers, the author constructs a portrait of New York City as a futuristic machine filled with motion, drama and human tragedy.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (first published 1925)
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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
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
Mar 09, 2015 Stela rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Buttate per un attimo il vostro ”Ulisse” sul comodino e prendete in mano, invece, questo libro di Dos Passos. Monumentale epica di New York. Continui salti di inquadratura (chiamateli, se volete, paragrafi), un modernismo che inventa una nuova lingua e con essa nuovi colori, nuovi colori per il cielo, per le strade, per le guance delle donne, per tutto; che disorienta tutto il mondo scombinando la struttura del romanzo, lo rimodella affastellando appunto quelli che sono mini capitoli uno dietro ...more
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
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 fu ...more
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
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 d ...more
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
Andrés Cabrera
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 histor ...more
Alun Williams
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
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 exper ...more
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
C Mac
Hello Everybody

been meaning to try
Manhattan Transfer
for about 20 years

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
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
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
i just started this book, and while it kind of reads as a book where the writer is consciously trying to create the american equivalent of ulysses, it is an otherwise good read so far. it must have been hard to be an intelligent writer in the 20's and not find yourself overly influenced by joyce.


Actually, now that I'm further into the book, I see less and less relation to Ulysses. The multiple adjectives preceding their subject was a stylistic thing I saw again and again in th
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
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
Maria Grazia
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 pos ...more
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
Jun 27, 2008 Andy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
This is one of those books that seem to improve with age - I've read it before, but it comes up as very modern each time. It's a very cinematic book, and illuminating on many levels. Dos Passos was a genius and his books bear this opinion out.
Michael Meeuwis
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 t ...more
Barbara Hug
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).
Manhattan Transfer is the first I've read from Dos Passos and after this, I'd really like to read more. This reminded me a lot of Virginia Woolf, in that there are extremely vivid snippets of modern urban life from a cross-section of individuals. Yet, Dos Passos is able to translate the experiences of individuals from all walks of life, whereas Woolf seems relegated to upper class Londoners. Even more impressive is that he's able to make the lives and internal thoughts of all of these people ver ...more
The Steele
Sep 28, 2008 The Steele rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who sincerely enjoys throwing up.
Well if Dos Passos intended on recreating Manhattan, he did an excellent job. Reading this book I felt the exact way I did in Manhattan. Too many people, too much dirt, too much noise, not enough sky, no horizon. So much spinning around you at all times it is nearly impossible to focus on one thing. Pretty soon all the senses overload and blend into careening nausea.
I think Dos Passos takes himself too seriously. I would like to sit down with him and tell him not to, but I am sure he would the
Gabriel Oak
Modernist American novel from the 1920s with socialist / anarchist sympathies. What's not to like?
I loved this book. No, it doesn't really have a plot; it's really just a collection of scenes throughout many people's lives. But the imagery is so vivid, and so unique, that it is easy to imagine NYC in the early 1900s, and almost as easy to see the build-up to the stock market crash. The reader just gets sucked into the world that Dos Passos has created, and is borne along by the chaos and uncertainty that the characters are buffeted by throughout their lives. And have I mentioned the imagery? ...more
Warren R.
Let me first say that Dos Passos is a great author and his ability to write so many different characters is an incredible talent that I'm sure many authors wish they could emulate. That being said, with this novel being as brief as it is, some of the voices get lost in the shuffle. I think that the city vs. humanity motif is a great one and relevant in our bustling and merciless world of today, but I wonder if the story would have been more poignant through a single set of eyes, or at least a ce ...more

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
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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
More about John Dos Passos...

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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.” 2 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.” 1 likes
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