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The 42nd Parallel

(The U.S.A. Trilogy #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  6,284 ratings  ·  446 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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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  6,284 ratings  ·  446 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Vit Babenco
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The 42nd Parallel is a lavish slice of the American life at the beginning of the twentieth century…
John Dos Passos has a sharp mind and a sharp eye so he is capable to penetrate into the innermost depths of human psyche. And he knows the ways of life inside out.
The only man that gets anything out of capitalism is a crook, and he gets to be a millionaire in short order…

The world of contrasts: success and failure, the poor and the rich, the unlucky many against the lucky few, or is history a battl
Ahmad Sharabiani
606. U.S.A. : The 42nd Parallel (The U.S.A. Trilogy #1), John Dos Passos

The U.S.A. Trilogy is a series of three novels by American writer John Dos Passos, comprising the novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932) and The Big Money (1936).

The books were first published together in a volume titled U.S.A. by Harcourt Brace in January 1938. The trilogy employs an experimental technique, incorporating four narrative modes, fictional narratives telling the life stories of twelve characters, collage
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've been a rotten literature delinquent. Oh yes, a true testament of the almighty Law of Murphy, moving to a new city was bound to place things in my path toward the completion of volume number one of Dos Passo's ever-revered U.S.A. For a long stretch of time I was like, why have I not finished this? Its accessible and striking with a less than imagined pretentiousness-level, the book has a buzzing heart beat; a complete immersion in its diverse pool of topics is achieved. It never bores or und ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
A fast-paced montage of American life from the turn of the century until the outbreak of WWI, most interesting for its radical politics and experimental form, rapidly cycling between stream-of-consciousness autobiography, short biographies of famous figures, collages of news fragments and song lyrics, and a nearly plotless series of linked short stories charting the ups and downs of individual lives in flat, plain prose.
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

lark benobi
This novel is such a distinct achievement that I haven't written a review before now, and even though this is my third time through the novel, this isn't really a review either. What I can say is that this novel in spite of its setting in the early 20th century is nevertheless written in such a contemporary and innovative way that it makes me realize there is no such thing as progress in the arts, or even evolution, but rather that we have extraordinary masterful artists that come along now and ...more
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: highland-library
Did I just give this book 1 1/2 ? It looked like it and if so , that's what I want . with the exception of Hemingway and some Fitzgerald , I'm not found of writers of this period ( WW I and the Roaring 20s .

The characters were neither memorable or likable , which is a poor way to begin a trilogy . So given that I am no longer tied to a required reading list , I'll accept #1 as emblematic of the whole .
carl  theaker
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
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

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
Jan 23, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Răzvan Molea
As Hemingway said to Dos Passos in a letter, after reading his USA trilogy:"Don’t let yourself slip and get any perfect characters in—no Stephen Daedeluses—remember it was Bloom and Mrs. Bloom saved Joyce . . . If you get a noble communist remember the bastard probably masturbates and is jallous as a cat. Keep them people, people, people, and don’t let them get to be symbols."(1932) ...more
Howard Larsson
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is far from being The Great American Novel. Very far. Dos Passos' 'stream of consciousness' style gets old very quickly. He provides a snapshot into American life without developing a story or any of his characters. I was disappointed but plodded through to the end. With so much other material to read, it is doubtful I will ever waste my time on the other two books in the trilogy. ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Highly enjoyable book once you figure out how to read all of Dos Passos new literary devices such as Camera Eye and Newsreels. Good picture of the common man in America in the time leading up to WW 1.
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

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
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: circle
Xperimental Mash-up

This experimental novel set in the early 1900s before the Market Crash is a mash-up of random radio broadcasts of news headlines and lyrics, biographical blurbs on significant figures, and the aimless autobiographical gibberings of a literary sadist.

It reminded me how my admiration for an artist with the courage to spend years on daring innovations has no true relation to my appreciation (or not) for the end product.

I keep going back to the same question, which arises from m
Rick Slane
Want to get an idea of how much the United States changed in 100 years?
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure that the essences of each individual novel are worth anything, but rather, the "novel" as a whole, by that I mean, as a trilogy. My review of the trilogy is here.


Leo Walsh
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had Dos Passos on my "to read" list since high school. I am not sure why it took so long to finally read it, though I am guessing that it had to do more with wanting to find it used rather than buy a new one.

I wanted to like this book, it seemed like it would be loved when it was added of my list of authors to read. I am still not sure what I think. There are style factors in the book that I think are genius, but it is so clouded in the male-hood of his generation that I have a bitter tas
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-authors-2016
I've come around on the newsreels, but I just can't warm up to the camera's eyes. The meat, though, is the individual stories that wend their way through. Overall, this is excellent. ...more
my name is corey irl
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
great fictionalised account of the labour struggle at the beginning of the 20th century. cant wait to find out what happens to the American workers' movement and the IWW -- lots of promise here ...more
This is one of those books that make you wonder “What did I miss?” I see plenty of wonderful reviews rating this highly. But in my listening to the audio version, I didn’t get that much out of it. I did enjoy the snippets of stories of the characters involved, and I liked the way it captured the time, but it really didn’t fit together well. Perhaps I need to continue listening to the trilogy to get that level of completeness and closure. This by itself didn’t do it.

Audio wasn’t the way to exper
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Very impressive evocation of the American zeitgeist at the start of the 20th century, focusing on the myriad of niche opportunities available to all and sundry persons to make their way in life. Unfortunately the author must have taken a bet to set a record for largest number of mind-numbingly boring characters in the same book - which he won easily.
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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

Other books in the series

The U.S.A. Trilogy (3 books)
  • 1919 (U.S.A., #2)
  • The Big Money (U.S.A., #3)

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