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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The 42nd parallel (Book One USA Trilogy)(1919) by Jon Dos Passos

Book Review
The 42nd parallel (Book One USA Trilogy)(1919)
 by Jon Dos Passos

   Jon Dos Passos wrote the USA Trilogy between 1930 and 1936, and all three were published in one volume in 1938.  Today, the books, perhaps because of their length, as treated more often as stand-alone titles, or at least published that way. I'm not a huge fan of Dos Passos, so I skipped the trilogy a few years back when I was reading through this portion of the 1001 Books list.  To fill in this particular blank I elected to check out the Audiobook edition, which, given the experimental portions of The 42nd Parallel, I worried would be a disastrous decision.  As it turned out, the audio-ness of it was the only thing that kept me going through a work that has otherwise aged poorly.

  Dos Passos is hardly alone in the gallery of early 20th century American authors who have aged poorly- Sinclair Lewis is another one for you.  Frank Norris. While it is clear that Dos Passos is either an outright socialist or sympathizer, it also become clear that Dos Passos is a member of the east coast elite who seems to believe he is doing everyone a favor by writing about "America."

  American as seen through the eyes of white-ethnic immigrants or their children- who comprise the different narrators of The 42nd Parallel.  Portions of straightforward narrative are interspersed with  stream-of-consciousness collections of headlines and popular songs as well as portions taking the point of view of a movie camera.   Towards the end of the book, some of the characters overlap, but as the introduction says, it is hard to say that The 42nd Parallel has a plot, per se. 

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