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Monday, August 06, 2018

1919 (1932) by Jon Dos Passos


Book Review
1919 (1932)
 by Jon Dos Passos

    The USA Trilogy is 1300 pages in length, 1919, book two in said trilogy, picks up more or less where The 42nd Parallel cut off, in terms of time, but shifts the action to Europe, where the characters are peripherally involved in World War I and then stick around for the aftermath.  Unlike the more unfamiliar locales of The 42nd Parallel, which were mostly little described small towns, railroad depots and lumber camps, 1919 spends much time in Paris.   Thus, Dos Passos is firmly in the mainstream of "Lost Generation" fiction, and 1919 shares many similarities with Hemingway's World War I books: volunteering for the foreign ambulance service, complaining about America from the point of view of a well educated college graduate, drinking.

 Unlike Hemingway  or Fitzgerald, who wrote dialogue which has stood the test of time, Dos Passos' characters come from the "gosh golly gee" school of American speech circa early 20th century.   The dialogue hasn't aged well, and that, coupled with the 1300+ page length of the trilogy is probably why no one reads this lost classic of American literature in 2018.  I mean not lost, exactly.  Forgotten.   1919 is a good choice for an Audiobook, since so much of what goes down is either dialogue or one of the interstitial stream of consciousness chapters- there isn't much to miss from the printed page. 

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