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The 42nd Parallel
The 42nd Parallel
The 42nd Parallel
Audiobook13 hours

The 42nd Parallel

Written by John Dos Passos

Narrated by David Drummond

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

3/5

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About this audiobook

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," Dos Passos was taking on the world. Counted as one of the best novels of the twentieth century by the Modern Library and by some of the finest writers working today, U.S.A. is a grand, kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation, buzzing with history and life.

The trilogy opens with The 42nd Parallel, where we find a young country at the dawn of the twentieth century. Slowly, in stories artfully spliced together, the lives and fortunes of five characters unfold. Mac, Janey, Eleanor, Ward, and Charley are caught on the storm track of this parallel and blown New Yorkward. As their lives cross and double back again, the likes of Eugene Debs, Thomas Edison, and Andrew Carnegie make cameo appearances.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateAug 31, 2010
ISBN9781400189106
Author

John Dos Passos

John Roderigo Dos Passos (b.1896, d.1970) was a writer, painter, and political activist. He wrote over forty books, including plays, poetry, novels, biographies, histories, and memoirs. He crafted over four hundred drawings, watercolors, and other artworks. Dos Passos considered himself foremost a writer of contemporary chronicles. He chose the moniker of “chronicler” because he was happiest working at the edge of fiction and nonfiction. Both genres benefited from his mastery of observation—his “camera eye”—and his sense of historical context. Dos Passos sought to ground fiction in historic detail and working-class, realistic dialogue. He invented a multimedia format of newsreels, songs, biographies, and autobiography to convey the frenzy of 20th century America’s industrialism and urbanism. His most memorable fiction—Three Soldiers (1920), Manhattan Transfer (1925), U.S.A. (1938)—possesses the authority of history and the allure of myth. Likewise, he sought to vitalize nonfiction history and reportage with the colors, sounds, and smells documented on his journeys across the globe. 

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Reviews for The 42nd Parallel

Rating: 3.05327868852459 out of 5 stars
3/5

244 ratings9 reviews

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    o god what fucking awesome book

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    I couldn't get past the structure of this book, although I know that is what has brought the book praise. There is no plot, but just a series of unrelated vignettes interspersed with biographies, news stories, bits of songs and stream of consciousness passages (The Camera Eye). Women just exist in relation to their men, who always seemed to be with them reluctantly. "You can't get gelded just to be true to your wife." I found it unbearable and gave up.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    I meant to read his USA Trilogy when I was in high school. I finished this but got no further. He used an odd collage like technique to try a journalistic type of atmosphere. It was pretty abstract. I can't tell you if there were characters or a plot or what.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I seldom like books based on style alone but the newsreel journalistic objectivity is enough to drive everything else. I was delighted to come across settings like Excelsior, MN and Buffalo, NY in its heyday.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    “Limon was one of the worst pestholes on the Caribbean, even the Indians died there of malaria, yellow jack, dysentery.Keith went back up to New Orleans on the steamer ???? ?. ?????? to hire workers to build the railroad. He offered a dollar a day and grub and hired seven hundred men. Some of them had been down before in the filibustering days of William Walker.Of that bunch about twentyfive came out alive.The rest left their whiskyscalded carcases to rot in the swamps.On another load he shipped down fifteen hundred; they all died to prove that only Jamaica Negroes could live in Limon.Minor Keith didn’t die.”This quote from Wikipedia: “As many as four thousand people, including Keith's three brothers, died during the construction of the first 25 miles of track. Having subsequent trouble recruiting Costa Rican laborers, Keith eventually brought in blacks from the Caribbean islands (mainly Jamaica), Chinese, and even Italians, to complete the project.”The ?.?.?. trilogy was published in 1930. The events from the opening passage to this post occurred in the late 1800s. American imperialism then. American imperialism now? This book was recommended by a friend since it fit into the research I was doing for an upcoming short story. Anytime, however, I put spade to the unturned earth of American history I’m left agape and ashamed at the old bones of brutal conquest. And we’re no exception, even if American exceptionalism is an ideology applied to that equally flattering and unsightly image in a mirror of our own fashioning, held at selfie-snapping distance.Oh, America. Out of 180 degrees of latitude, surely there’s more than enough room to share. I did enjoy this novel, for its depictions of the average and not-so-average American as well as for its experimentation in style. However, I can’t find myself going back over this again. Maybe I’ll read the other two installments. I’m sure they’re worth it. But, man, I really don’t like most of what I’m seeing. Maybe it’s in the writing, but this mirror has got an awful lot of blemishes, nicks from hasty shaving, and sun-damage caught in the reflection.This is what I read during the power outage of Hurricane Florence. I probably should’ve selected something more humorous or uplifting. However, the outpouring of community, fellowship, charity, and selflessness after the storm was the perfect antithesis to the conceit of most of the characters in this book.Maybe there’s hope for America, after all.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Seems like the "experimental" disjointed approach was a purely practical attempt on his part to cope with an exaggerated scope; I'm not sure it came naturally to him. Had the misfortune of being shown up by the Sound and the Fury the same year, but fans of less flamboyant prose may prefer it.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Not the best book I've read, but it was interesting enough to make me want to continue with the series.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    What can I say about the 42nd parallel that hasn't already been said? I guess not much, so here's what everybody else has already said:It's part of the USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos. It, and the rest of the trilogy, has four different parts braided throughout the narrative, involving fictional narratives describing life in America through the point of view of several characters, actual newspaper clipping and quotes relevant to the popular culture, biographies of public figures, as well as a semi-autobiographical flow of text.This is one of those books that can't easily be explained, and as such, you should just read to "get."I would most definitely recommend this book for fans of Faulkner, Pynchon, or Joyce. It is definitely a great 20th century American novel, and part of a greater series that gives one a sense of life in the U.S.A.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Not many things make me feel patriotic about the United States. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am about as far from flag-waving as a person can be; not only do I deplore current policies and past atrocities in this country, but I usually don't feel very connected to the huge entity that is "The United States." I feel very connected to Portland, and even Oregon, since I have lived here my whole life and feel I am a product, for better or worse, of this culture. Even the whole West Coast can sometimes conjure up feelings of fondness or belonging in me. But the entirety of this huge, unwieldly nation? Not a chance. There are so many distinct subcultures here with which I have never even had any contact: I have never been to the Deep South, or Appalachia, or the Midwest, or Texas. Even if I had been to one or the other, I would be as much of a tourist there as if I were visiting a totally different country. And yet, John Dos Passos' USA trilogy somehow accesses a deeply - but DEEPLY - buried patriotism in me, and I think for a moment that it's kind of appealing to imagine myself part of a long national narrative, even if most of said narrative is something I wish I could rewrite from beginning to end.It's almost as if USA is specifically structured to get under my skin, making use of the modernist experimentalism I'm such a sucker for in other works, and using it to express a uniquely American perspective. Dos Passos's trilogy features many different types of narratives: third-person stories about regular American men and women, told in a succinct, newspaper-influenced voice; long, prose-like poems about the larger-than-life Americans of the time, from Rockefeller and Eugene Debs in the early years to Isadora Duncan and Henry Ford in the later; snippets of newspaper headlines and popular songs cobbled together into looser, "newsreel" poems; and the Camera Eye sections, told in a stream-of-consciousness style, from Dos Passos's own perspective. Together this variety of the large and small, journalistic objectivity and intensely subjective snapshots, regular people and giants of art and industry, lets me relate to America-as-vast-experiential-panorama, in a way I usually can't. And the way that the ridiculousness of newspaper headlines and semi-articulateness of a poignant song lyric interact with the complicated and compromised lives of real people rings true almost a century later.USA also offers a leftist slice of history in a way that's very personal: witnessing a brutal anti-labor attack in rural Washington state in the 1910's, or the ins and outs of a strike in Goldfield, Nevada in 1905, really makes the history of those familiar places come alive for me, and become part of the larger patterns of pro- and anti-labor movements happening all over the country. (Unfortunately, the activists who undermine themselves through in-fighting and excessive drinking are eerily familiar as well.) There is a Kerouac-like love of the small towns and big cities of America, but Dos Passos writes about people who are actually invested in them one way or another, rather than people who are just passing through - an approach I find much more emotionally rewarding. For me personally, writing about the wide spectrum of American experience using a wide spectrum of (American) voices is very powerful, and I've never really seen it done as effectively as Dos Passos does it here. If there are any other lovers of experimental prose out there trying to connect with their American roots (or not), I highly recommend USA.

    1 person found this helpful