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THE BIG MONEY completes John Dos Passos's three-volume "fable of America's materialistic success and moral decline" (American Heritage) and marks the end of "one of the most ambitious projects that an American novelist has ever undertaken" (Time). Here we come back to America after the war and find a nation on the upswing. Industrialism booms. The stock market surges. THE BIG MONEY completes John Dos Passos's three-volume "fable of America's materialistic success and moral decline" (American Heritage) and marks the end of "one of the most ambitious projects that an American novelist has ever undertaken" (Time). Here we come back to America after the war and find a nation on the upswing. Industrialism booms. The stock market surges. Lindbergh takes his solo flight. Henry Ford makes automobiles. From New York to Hollywood, love affairs to business deals, it is a country taking the turns too fast, speeding toward the crash of 1929. Ultimately, whether the novels are read together or separately, they paint a sweeping portrait of collective America and showcase the brilliance and bravery of one of its most enduring and admired writers.


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THE BIG MONEY completes John Dos Passos's three-volume "fable of America's materialistic success and moral decline" (American Heritage) and marks the end of "one of the most ambitious projects that an American novelist has ever undertaken" (Time). Here we come back to America after the war and find a nation on the upswing. Industrialism booms. The stock market surges. THE BIG MONEY completes John Dos Passos's three-volume "fable of America's materialistic success and moral decline" (American Heritage) and marks the end of "one of the most ambitious projects that an American novelist has ever undertaken" (Time). Here we come back to America after the war and find a nation on the upswing. Industrialism booms. The stock market surges. Lindbergh takes his solo flight. Henry Ford makes automobiles. From New York to Hollywood, love affairs to business deals, it is a country taking the turns too fast, speeding toward the crash of 1929. Ultimately, whether the novels are read together or separately, they paint a sweeping portrait of collective America and showcase the brilliance and bravery of one of its most enduring and admired writers.

30 review for The Big Money

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “At Versailles allies and enemies, magnates, generals, flunkey politicians were slamming the shutters against the storm, against the new, against hope. It was suddenly clear for a second in the thundering glare what war was about, what peace was about.” The war is over. And the rich grew richer and the poor went poorer… “In America, in Europe, the old men won. The bankers in their offices took a deep breath, the bediamonded old ladies of the leisure class went back to clipping their coupons in the “At Versailles allies and enemies, magnates, generals, flunkey politicians were slamming the shutters against the storm, against the new, against hope. It was suddenly clear for a second in the thundering glare what war was about, what peace was about.” The war is over. And the rich grew richer and the poor went poorer… “In America, in Europe, the old men won. The bankers in their offices took a deep breath, the bediamonded old ladies of the leisure class went back to clipping their coupons in the refined quiet of their safe deposit vaults, the last puffs of the ozone of revolt went stale in the whisper of speakeasy arguments.” And suffering from a postwar hangover soldiers sailed home to seek their place in the sun in peace. And those who’ve been scrupulous enough not to trample people under their feet were trampled under the feet of the unscrupulous ones… “…every man his pigeonhole… the personality must be kept carefully adjusted over the face… to facilitate recognition she pins on each of us a badge… today entails tomorrow…” Those who flew out of luck were going down losing their human qualities on the way down and those who flew into big money were going up losing their human qualities on the way up. And at that everyone attempts to do everything possible to hasten one’s ruination.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    - What would you do if forgets the working class solidarity? Each of these foreign bastards thinks he is the only one worth anything, Americans take us to clean anything, except them, of course. There is still not so long ago we were all strangers in this damn country. God, I wonder why I walk with them! Lisbon Book-Fair 2015.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    A classic for a reason. This book (the entire trilogy really) is great writing, great history, and an excellent reminder that there really is nothing new under the sun. The lives of the characters and the times they live in (political unrest, class struggle, get rich quick schemes, war, xenophobia, etc) ring true today. The slang, however, has changed. So yes it's a little dated, but timeless at its core. Loved it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Do you ever start a series, and you're really digging it and read the first few books right in a row, and then decide you don't feel like reading the last book right at the moment, so you take a bit of a break, sure that you'll be back to finish up the series before any time at all because you like it so well, but then one thing leads to another and years have gone by since you devoured the first few books, and the details are no longer clear in your mind, so you put off reading the last book Do you ever start a series, and you're really digging it and read the first few books right in a row, and then decide you don't feel like reading the last book right at the moment, so you take a bit of a break, sure that you'll be back to finish up the series before any time at all because you like it so well, but then one thing leads to another and years have gone by since you devoured the first few books, and the details are no longer clear in your mind, so you put off reading the last book because you have a vague idea you might start the series again from the beginning to remind yourself of all the things you've undoubtedly forgotten in the meantime, but with all the tempting unread books on your list you never feel like making quite that large of a re-reading commitment, so the final book just sits on your shelves for years and years and possibly decades, caught in a kind of limbo, even though you're pretty much guaranteed to enjoy it if you'd just pick it up? Well, that's what happened to me with John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy. For those who aren't familiar with this trilogy, its novelty is in its form. Dos Passos, an American Modernist and contemporary of Hemingway, Faulkner, Stein and the rest of that expat cadre, has assembled something less like a novel and more like a collaged portrait of the United States during three consecutive periods of history: The 42nd Parallel deals with the early years of the 20th century; 1919 is concerned with the American experience of World War I; and The Big Money, the long-awaited (to me) capstone of the trilogy, is concerned with the boom years following the War, during which America was hurtling unknowingly toward the Great Depression. (All three were written during the Great Depression, fro 1930 to 1936, so the shadow of coming events looms large over them, especially the last one.) The novels in the series share a common structure: they are composed of four different types of sections, which alternate unpredictably with one another like an improvisational jazz piece. The "Newsreel" sections are themselves collages, juxtapositions of newspaper headlines, contemporary speeches, and fragments of popular songs of the time. Dos Passos is excellent, I think, at giving a sense of the sweeping progress of history as found in the minutiae of the popular media, and also a sense of its myopia and the self-serving language of politics, advertising, and the press. Forgive the lengthy block quote, but I think the easiest way to explain the Newsreels is just to show you how they work: 'Twarn't for powder and for storebought hair De man I love would not gone nowhere      if one should seek a simple explanation of his career it would doubtless be found in that extraordinary decision to forsake the ease of a clerkship for the wearying labor of a section hand. The youth who so early in life had so much of judgment and willpower could not fail to rise above the general run of men. He became the intimate of bankers St. Louis woman wid her diamon' rings Pulls dat man aroun' by her apron strings      Tired of walking, riding a bicycle or riding in streetcars, he is likely to buy a Ford. DAYLIGHT HOLDUP SCATTERS CROWD      Just as soon as his wife discovers that every Ford is like every other Ford and that nearly everyone has one, she is likely to influence him to step into the next social group, of which the Dodge is the most conspicuous example. desperate revolver battle follows      The next step comes when daughter comes back from college and the family moves into a new home. Father wants economy. Mother craves opportunity for her children, daughter desires social prestige and son wants travel, speed, get-up-and-go. MAN SLAIN NEAR HOTEL MAJESTIC BY THREE FOOTPADS I hate to see de evenin sun go down      Hate to see de evenin sun go down           Cause my baby he done lef' dis town Juxtaposed with the Newsreels are sections of plain, accessible prose that tell the stories of fictional characters—the most traditional, novel-like elements of the book. These chapters are named for their main characters: "Charley Anderson," "Mary French." More on these later, but they probably make up between two-thirds and three-quarters of the text. In amongst the Newsreels and story elements, there are also "Camera Eye" sections, in which Dos Passos relates his own experience in stream-of-consciousness prose. This is his attempt to expose the ostensibly "godlike" authorial voice for what it was: just another human living his life. And finally, in addition to the Camera Eye sections, there are also poems scattered through the books which tell the stories of famous real-life people of the era: Henry Ford, Rudolph Valentino, William Randolph Hearst, Thorstein Veblen. These are truthfully my favorite parts of Dos Passos's trilogy; his poem on Eugene Debs in The 42nd Parallel convinced me I'd found a new favorite writer. I think what I love about them is Dos Passos's mixture of resignation, sadness and anger at how, time and time again, complex and contradictory humans let their vices and petty prejudices mar their own endeavors. From "TIN LIZZIE," the poem on Henry Ford:        One thing he brought back from his trip        was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.        He started a campaign to enlighten the world in the Dearborn Independent; the Jews were why the world wasn't like Wayne County, Michigan, in the old horse and buggy days;        the Jews had started the war, Bolshevism, Darwinism, Marxism, Nietzsche, short skirts and lipstick. They were behind Wall Street and the international bankers, and the whiteslave traffic and the movies and the Supreme Court and ragtime and the illegal liquor business.        Henry Ford denounced the Jews and ran for senator and sued the Chicago Tribune for libel,        and was the laughingstock of the kept metropolitan press;        but when the metropolitan bankers tried to horn in on his business        he thoroughly outsmarted them. For Dos Passos, Ford's absurd, rabid racism and oddly obsessive provincial nostalgia (his desire that the whole world be "like Wayne County, Michigan, in the old horse and buggy days") coexists with a storyteller's appreciation of his business prowess and the epic change his cars created in the American landscape. Every person is simultaneously great and small, Dos Passos seems to be arguing; every person is at once admirable and hateful. The fact that Ford himself longed for old-fashioned quiet and simplicity, and spent his final years on a restored simulacrum of his father's farm, removed from the noise of his own automobiles, is just the kind of poignant, contradictory detail Dos Passos loves. The actual "characters" of U.S.A., the ones invented rather than just evoked by Dos Passos, who are the subjects of the trilogy's prose sections, come from a variety of backgrounds, but often work hard to end up in a different part of society than the one in which they started: working-class, middle-America Charley Anderson, for example, gifted with machines and a flying ace in WWI, starts his own aviation company with a friend and ends up wealthy, married to a society girl; meanwhile Mary French, daughter of the Main Line, goes against her mother's wishes and leaves college to be a union organizer and community activist. The common thread, however, is that no matter what Dos Passos characters decide they want, it seldom makes them happy, and they usually end up sabotaging their own efforts in one way or another. Indeed, the one uniting element of all the U.S.A. characters is that they are slaves to, and undone by, their vices, whether those be for sex, alcohol, social position, or money. The characters who do best both materially and psychologically, like actress Margo Dowling, are usually the most pragmatic, the ones who acknowledge that they're playing a survival game, and look out for themselves and (sometimes) those around them with an utter lack of romanticism. Margo has no grand illusions, especially once she passes the age of about twenty, and that saves her from the pathetic fate of those who keep telling themselves stories about who they are and what they want—stories that get less true all the time. Former golden boy and flying ace Charley Anderson is a particularly pathetic example of the Dos Passos milieu: believing his every whim has a compelling reason behind it (that his lust is love, and his drunken well-being happiness), he descends ever-farther into debt, alienation and alcoholism while telling himself stories about his flying brilliance. Even the activist Mary French, who is probably closest to Dos Passos in her leftist outlook and untiring political work, becomes a victim of her own illusions as she falls in love with a series of condescending, emotionally unavailable fellow activists. This compulsion, in Dos Passos characters, to let their vices sabotage their dreams didn't bother me as much in the first two books as it did this time around, in The Big Money. I'm not sure if the series actually does become more bitter as it goes along, or whether I've become more sensitive in the ten years since reading the last two books—my guess is that both might be true. It would certainly make sense that, as the country careens toward the crash of 1929, Dos Passos would become more condemnatory of the way Americans were behaving, since he laid the responsibility for the depression of the 1930s squarely on the shoulders of the irresponsible stock market speculators of the 1920s, and on American capitalism as a whole. And it's not that I don't relate to the pattern he lays out—obviously it does happen, and it's a classic setup for a tragedy of the everyday. I just can't help believing that it doesn't happen to everyone—that idealism and dreams, while dangerous as a sole frame of reference, can be an important asset if balanced by practicality. Despite my qualms about the uniformly miserable characters, though, I remain in awe of Dos Passos's technical verve and audacity, and I love the way he simultaneously creates a broad canvas of events on the national level, and an intimate canvas of regular individuals making their way.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marc Gerstein

    I think “The Big Money” is the best of the “U.S.A.” trilogy (which includes “The 42nd Parallel” and “1919”). I’m not sure if that’s because of the book itself or because of the way reading it with recollection of the prior (which I read in succession just before it) pulls the entire work together. Essentially, this is the great American epic; “U.S.A.” is actually a perfect overall title. It is, quite literally, the story of life in the USA. It focuses on three decades, the 1900s, the 1910s, and I think “The Big Money” is the best of the “U.S.A.” trilogy (which includes “The 42nd Parallel” and “1919”). I’m not sure if that’s because of the book itself or because of the way reading it with recollection of the prior (which I read in succession just before it) pulls the entire work together. Essentially, this is the great American epic; “U.S.A.” is actually a perfect overall title. It is, quite literally, the story of life in the USA. It focuses on three decades, the 1900s, the 1910s, and the 1920s in a way that could have been the 1850s, 1860s, 1870s; the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, or any period of time (or more than three decades if an author would have the wherewithal to do it). What’s most significant is something some of the less favorable reviews missed; this is timeless, not dated. Once you tune into the grand scheme, its easy as you read to envision the whole thing being re-told with details from today. The scheme for the work is subtle and fascinating. At first, I wondered about Do Passos’ seeming focus on one strata of society, the marginal or disaffected. But after having finished the trilogy, I now get it. I find it almost analogous to the scientific method, where you want to observe the impact of X on Y but you want to control for variations in A, B, C, etc. Each decade has its own flavor; the 1900s dominated by class strife and the emergence of the labor movement fading, as it ends, toward the theme of the next decade, which is the Great War, patriotism and loyalty with undercurrents of class struggle persisting (we see even now these underlays as the flavor of one decade doesn’t fully end on the exact last date of that decade) and we see themes of the next decade (money, ambition, partying) taking shape. We also see the variety of ways these larger historical and institutional forces play out on a variety of individuals who start out more or less from the same point but wind up pursuing different paths and reaching different destinations based on – well, I suppose that’s for us to figure out and debate; Innate characteristics? Small variations in environmental details? Luck? All of the above? Some of the above? And by the way, as we get this high-level big-picture vantage point, it’s hard not to notice the workings of the old adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Parallels from what we saw then to what we see today are hard not to notice if one can avoid getting too wrapped up in details.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I'm so glad I finally got to read DosPassos. There's not much I can say about "The Big Money" (volume 3 of the USA trilogy) that hasn't already been said by all sorts of people much smarter than me, over the past several decades. In "The Big Money" DosPassos captures the spirit of a generation- the "lost generation"- as the lives of several characters intersect and intertwine in the years between the end of the First World War and the crash of 1929. Looking back from DosPassos' perspective at I'm so glad I finally got to read DosPassos. There's not much I can say about "The Big Money" (volume 3 of the USA trilogy) that hasn't already been said by all sorts of people much smarter than me, over the past several decades. In "The Big Money" DosPassos captures the spirit of a generation- the "lost generation"- as the lives of several characters intersect and intertwine in the years between the end of the First World War and the crash of 1929. Looking back from DosPassos' perspective at the time of writing, it seems like the 1929 crash and the ensuing Depression were a judgement, of sorts, on American society: paying the piper for years of crass materialism, empty satisfaction of material and physical wants (wealth, sex, and booze), and the betrayal of the American dream: no longer was wealth- even mere security- obtained through work and innovation; rather, through manipulation of financial markets and abuse of credit. (I know! I know! History is repeating itself!) There's nothing like a traditional plot here: DosPassos' characters simply drift through the decade, experiencing the base thrills and degradation that the America's economy and society had to offer. DosPassos uses some innovative techniques to tie everything together and provide social/political/economic context to the book- including "Newsreel" chapters containing snippets from headlines and news stories, stream-of-consciousness "Camera Eye" bits presenting his themes in stark relief, and- most interestingly- mini-biographies of prominent Americans of the era (Henry Ford, Frederick Taylor, Frank Lloyd Wright, others) who helped shape the first decades of "The American Century." DosPassos uses the Sacco and Vanzetti case- with which he was personally involved- as a simulacrum of the demise of the American working class, and the ultimate victory of the financiers. Powerful stuff. I'm going to read more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Oy vey what a train wreck. The book was torn between Upton Sinclair power to the people proletariatisms and Harold Robbins potboiler men in power and their sins-type sensation. I had to occasionally check the cover to make sure I was still reading Dos Passos. To be kind this is a Roaring Twenties "Valley of The Dolls" with Mary French as Anne Welles, Eveline Johnson as Jennifer North, and Margo Dowling as Neely O'Hara.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This past weekend, I finally finished The Big Money, the final book in John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy which began with The 42nd Parallel and 1919. I started reading the series because it kept showing up on lists of must-read 20th century literature. It probably belongs on them but not because it's especially profound or moving. Instead, it's a vivid picture (with a heavy socialist tint) of everyday American life in the years between McKinley's assassination and the stock market crash. Dos Passos This past weekend, I finally finished The Big Money, the final book in John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy which began with The 42nd Parallel and 1919. I started reading the series because it kept showing up on lists of must-read 20th century literature. It probably belongs on them but not because it's especially profound or moving. Instead, it's a vivid picture (with a heavy socialist tint) of everyday American life in the years between McKinley's assassination and the stock market crash. Dos Passos employs an unusual narrative structure which has an almost Cubist effect, revealing the world from a variety of distances and perspectives. The bulk of the work is a set of chapters that each focus on one of about a dozen characters, telling their stories from childhood onward. These stories are punctuated by the so-called "Newsreels," collages of headlines, news story fragments and snatches of lyrics of popular songs, that are sometimes reminiscent of Burroughs' fold-ins. The Newsreels provide both a sense of time and an immediate historical context. A deeper cultural and mythical context is provided by a set of biographies of important figures of the time beginning with Eugene Debs, proceeding through the likes of J.P. Morgan and Joe Hill, Henry Ford and Isadora Duncan, and ending with a nameless vagrant. Interspersed with these three narrative forms is a fourth obscure set of chapters that come under the heading "Camera Eye" and provide Dos Passos' impressions of various times of his own life. These are given without background or explanation but provide an immediacy absent from the rest of the book. The tone throughout the trilogy is one of sustained bitterness. The individual characters lead eventful, but troubled and unsatisfying lives- WWI is actually a bright spot for most of them- which is probably why Sartre held the series in high esteem. At the outset there is some hope in the goals of the Wobblies. But while they are prominent in The 42nd Parallel, they've faded to irrelevance by the beginning of the third book. This process was helped along by mass arrests by Woodrow Wilson, documented in his own biography titled "Meester Veelson." This scathing chapter situated at the center of 1919 is in many ways the heart of the whole trilogy, highlighting Wilson's betrayal of his own ideals with a list of the efforts at reform he abandoned throughout his life. It is perhaps only outshined by the biography that appears at the end of 1919 titled "The Body of an American Soldier." After the powerful conclusion of the second book, The Big Money initially felt perfunctory. I can't say that feeling completely disappeared by the end of the book, but Dos Passos managed to allay most of it by avoiding the predictable dramatic climax synchronized with the stock market crash. In fact, that event is barely mentioned in one of the last Newsreels. In the meantime, the stories of the various individual characters all sputter to unremarkable (though frequently premature) endings. The anger of the first two books is replaced with quiet resignation, which is probably the most fitting response to the first three decades of the 20th century in the United States.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    An interesting but not very enjoyable read. I didn’t really feel like there was any one main character in the book, and while the plot follows characters like Charley and Margo the most, the collage of newspaper headings, brief introductions to numerous famous Americans of the era, song snippets, etc., left me with the impression that it is meant to be AMERICA’s story, more than that of any particular American. Or more specifically, the post-WWI to pre-stock market crash America. The 20’s are an An interesting but not very enjoyable read. I didn’t really feel like there was any one main character in the book, and while the plot follows characters like Charley and Margo the most, the collage of newspaper headings, brief introductions to numerous famous Americans of the era, song snippets, etc., left me with the impression that it is meant to be AMERICA’s story, more than that of any particular American. Or more specifically, the post-WWI to pre-stock market crash America. The 20’s are an interesting time in American history, and Dos Passos really delves into the glamour and excess, the confidence of America after the war contrasted with the materialistic, doomed future. His characters are for the most part unhappy and not very likable (just my opinion of course) and are largely self-serving and slaves to their own weaknesses/vices. They also provide an interesting contrast between the idea of the American dream and the reality. (Charley, a war hero who makes his way into business, “the self made man,” is also a drunk who uses and abuses women, and Margo, the pretty blond who heads west to become a movie star, was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and uses people relentlessly on her way to the top.) I did like how Dos Passos alludes to American “mythic” figures, like the Wright Brothers, Isadora Duncan, and Henry Ford. One of the most interesting is the description of the life and death of Rudolph Valentino, and the riots of crazed fans who immortalized him immediately after death. The description of his diseased body in contrast with his image of legendary, silver screen beauty is an interesting metaphor for myth versus the reality that lurks beneath. The newsreels included between sections were very interesting too, and could be viewed as a symbol of the media’s role in that distortion between myth and reality. Many of the headlines that Dos Passos includes are sensational and ugly, but they also show how the press controls/filters what people see and remember of their era. In contrast, the stories of the individuals in The Big Money can be viewed as the realities behind the headlines. (Which is pretty bad considering it ends BEFORE the stock market crash and Great Depression. Yikes.) No wonder Ada says “Oh Mary […] I wish everybody wasn’t so unhappy.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jerjonji

    I was barely 13 and reading the headiest book I’d ever encountered: John Dos Passos’ trilogy, USA. Over 1200 pages long, I discovered an America I never knew existed, an America hidden from the children of the Cold War, not in our history books or bedtime stories, and I fell in love with the spirit of Socialism. I longed for a copy, a real paper copy of the Worker. I read Marx and understood little. I believed firmly in the power of the labor unions though I’d never met a union worker. I moaned I was barely 13 and reading the headiest book I’d ever encountered: John Dos Passos’ trilogy, USA. Over 1200 pages long, I discovered an America I never knew existed, an America hidden from the children of the Cold War, not in our history books or bedtime stories, and I fell in love with the spirit of Socialism. I longed for a copy, a real paper copy of the Worker. I read Marx and understood little. I believed firmly in the power of the labor unions though I’d never met a union worker. I moaned about living in the wrong time period and wanting to be alive in the 30’s when people talked about real things and real issues. I was insufferable, with just enough information to drive everyone around me insane. One night at supper, my father silently handed me a book of poetry. I began reading it at the supper table and tears streamed down my face. It was the beginning of another intellectual journey, one taken too soon to realize the mark it’d leave on my soul. The author’s words that moved me were these: I am past thirty. I fear the nights. I hunch the sheet with my knees. I bury my face in the pillow, shamelessly weeping, That I have squandered my life on little nothings And in the morning will squander it again. I Journeyed through Russia By Yevgeny Yevtushenko I have the battered paperback of Bratsk Station and other new poems still, and found it tonight tucked on a shelf with my other classics. I picked it up and read the first entry again. Its words as familiar as a psalm to me, I wondered at the wisdom of my father. Did he know what he had given me? Did he understand the balance it would give my heart, or did he simply find a book of poetry in a box of books he’d bought and think I’d enjoy reading it? I’m sure he doesn’t remember giving me the book with a profile of a mysterious Russian author on the front.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    The Big Money, the final third of Dos Passos' ambitious U.S.A. Trilogy, is every bit as strong as the first two books, The 42nd Parallel and 1919. I'm probably doing Dos Passos a disservice by calling his trilogy ambitious. The word doesn't have enough sweep to effectively describe what Dos Passos did with these three books, which is to tell the story of the United States during the first three decades of the 20th century, its technological advancements, and what Dos Passos saw as its moral The Big Money, the final third of Dos Passos' ambitious U.S.A. Trilogy, is every bit as strong as the first two books, The 42nd Parallel and 1919. I'm probably doing Dos Passos a disservice by calling his trilogy ambitious. The word doesn't have enough sweep to effectively describe what Dos Passos did with these three books, which is to tell the story of the United States during the first three decades of the 20th century, its technological advancements, and what Dos Passos saw as its moral decline due to the decadence of the wealthy. The trilogy takes in World War I, the birth of aviation and motion pictures, union organizers, advertising, the stock market, Prohibition, the working class and the wealthy, and ends shortly before the market crash of 1929. The narrative is fragmented into four separate styles that complement and inform each other, allowing the trilogy to be both sweepingly general and highly specific: fictional stories of 12 characters whose lives occasionally intersect throughout the three books; collages of newspaper headlines, newsreel scripts, and popular song lyrics of the time period; short nonfiction biographies of famous Americans; and Joyce-inspired, impressionistic, semi-autobiographical stream-of-consciousness. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    P

    Re The USA Trilogy. I found this plotless depiction of Dos Passo's fictional characters set during the 1st three decades of the 20th century to be fascinating. The author reveals everyday people of almost all stripes, during a time of momentous change in the country as well as the world, and shows how they simply cope with their lives, and how they try to make it in an America that was full of opportunity, but yet, still full of the vicissitudes life always presents - the inevitable Re The USA Trilogy. I found this plotless depiction of Dos Passo's fictional characters set during the 1st three decades of the 20th century to be fascinating. The author reveals everyday people of almost all stripes, during a time of momentous change in the country as well as the world, and shows how they simply cope with their lives, and how they try to make it in an America that was full of opportunity, but yet, still full of the vicissitudes life always presents - the inevitable disappointments, heartbreaks, frustrations and difficulties that everyone faces, no matter how hard we all try to avoid them. Especially interesting to me was just the way it seems so many people at that time lived, scrambling to be 'successful', while apparently not ever thinking too much about what that meant. And no PC stuff here, people just did and said whatever they thought, as long as it seemed, they were accompanied by prodigious amounts of booze to help them along the way. Essentially, this is a snapshot of a way of life long gone in America's history. Again, it was fascinating to experience it, even vicariously.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lostinanovel

    I think the best of the three in the USA trilogy, although I may have just gotten used to the style. The four different writing styles, or viewpoints, help paint the picture of the era. The newsreels, the stream of consciousness, the narrative fiction and camera eye all are a bit different but add to the panorama Dos Passos is painting of the era. Sometimes I would have to remember that this wasn’t a recently written work attempting to imagine the “old days”. Dos Passos was writing about his I think the best of the three in the USA trilogy, although I may have just gotten used to the style. The four different writing styles, or viewpoints, help paint the picture of the era. The newsreels, the stream of consciousness, the narrative fiction and camera eye all are a bit different but add to the panorama Dos Passos is painting of the era. Sometimes I would have to remember that this wasn’t a recently written work attempting to imagine the “old days”. Dos Passos was writing about his current period and attempting to capture the entire feel of the time. You have any interest in 1910-1931 America? Then you must read this trilogy. Otherwise, your interest isn’t serious. I say this was the best of the three works because the characters in the fictional narratives are in more tense situations, heading towards either victory or calamity. The narratives about historical figures are also interesting although I have no idea how accurate were his portrayals.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cosmic Arcata

    This book pulled together all the big players and the big events. I have to say that I wanted a little more earth shattering event around the stock market. But I learned about a lot of people and attitudes that were happening during this time. I would like to remind puerile that the author was a socialist. But he also changed his position on that! I think that is important, because names can be so divisive. I think some follow up links or people: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scien... This book pulled together all the big players and the big events. I have to say that I wanted a little more earth shattering event around the stock market. But I learned about a lot of people and attitudes that were happening during this time. I would like to remind puerile that the author was a socialist. But he also changed his position on that! I think that is important, because names can be so divisive. I think some follow up links or people: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scien... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernes... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_T... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conso... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samue...

  15. 4 out of 5

    keatssycamore

    This book gets a one star improvement over the second entry in the trilogy just because I like the darker turn/tone it takes. Dos Passos still has no clue about how to write a woman character but at least as he's gotten older he's become more bitter about them and the motives he suspects in them. This leads him to allow the women to do some of the same kind of using that had been done to them by feckless men in the first two books. So I guess you could say a certain kind of shabby equality of This book gets a one star improvement over the second entry in the trilogy just because I like the darker turn/tone it takes. Dos Passos still has no clue about how to write a woman character but at least as he's gotten older he's become more bitter about them and the motives he suspects in them. This leads him to allow the women to do some of the same kind of using that had been done to them by feckless men in the first two books. So I guess you could say a certain kind of shabby equality of the sexes has been achieved in this final volume of the USA trilogy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    scratch that. i found this book on the sidewalk and impulsively took it. but i have the novel with all 3 novels in it 1 "the 42nd parallel" 2. "nineteen nineteen" and 3 "the big money" (this one). so going with usa for a 3 for 1 bang buck deal. so there.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Dos Passos concludes his portrait of modernity with its breathless activity and discordant cacophony.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    Fortunately, I think the third volume really bounced back. Margo Dowling is a great character, and so is Mary French. Dos Passos' women really do tend to be better than his men, don't they?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    I would rank and compare this (and the whole series) with the much more widely read Grapes of Wrath. Both convey a mind-numbing sadness and make you really ache in your heart for the miserable lives and broken dreams of these characters. I would never have made it in early 20th century America. The world was so much more harsh. Endless hours of back-breaking labor in unsafe working conditions and still no money to live on drove the men to drunkenness. They beat their women, abandoned their I would rank and compare this (and the whole series) with the much more widely read Grapes of Wrath. Both convey a mind-numbing sadness and make you really ache in your heart for the miserable lives and broken dreams of these characters. I would never have made it in early 20th century America. The world was so much more harsh. Endless hours of back-breaking labor in unsafe working conditions and still no money to live on drove the men to drunkenness. They beat their women, abandoned their children. All the while the moneyed classes spent vast sums on trivialities, and yet they weren't happy either-- engaging in endless sad affairs, continual drinking, and obsession with the stock market. I'm making the book sound like a downer, and it is. I guess that's what makes it so good-- it's unflinchingly honest about the sadness of the unfulfilled American Dream and the hypocrisies at the heart of the USA at this time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ericka Clouther

    I'm not sure why I continued with the trilogy when I wasn't especially impressed with the first two books. I found them historically interesting mostly. I wasn't riveted by the writing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    The Big Money is a very interesting and compelling novel that I'm glad to have read. It's actually the third book in the "USA Trilogy" following American culture through the first 3 decades of the 20th century (each novel covering one decade). The Big Money takes us through the 1920s. The style is experimental and at times a little odd because of that. Had I not been reading this as part of a class or with some notes to help guide me, I'm certain I would have missed a lot of the nuances. There are The Big Money is a very interesting and compelling novel that I'm glad to have read. It's actually the third book in the "USA Trilogy" following American culture through the first 3 decades of the 20th century (each novel covering one decade). The Big Money takes us through the 1920s. The style is experimental and at times a little odd because of that. Had I not been reading this as part of a class or with some notes to help guide me, I'm certain I would have missed a lot of the nuances. There are 4 different writing threads throughout the novel: * Lives (actual story arcs of fictional characters) * Biographies (mini-biographies of notable characters such as Ford, Hearst, and others) * Newsreels (snippets from newspaper, radio, pop culture and other elements…pieced together poetically to convey a thought or thread) * Camera Eye (commentary on what's going on…a sort of personal context outside of the story) The way the novel is pieced together is very intriguing and made for fun reading. It provides some very interesting insights into what social, political and cultural life was like during this timeframe. The size and content can certainly be daunting, but the presentation is in bite-sized chunks which makes it more manageable. Still, I would recommend you pay close attention and perhaps have a quick link to wikipedia or other reference material in order to get the full perspective. **** 4 out of 5 stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Durham

    Of the John dos Passos trilogy: The Big Money ( USA., #3 ) has the best characterization, and story lines. This is contains a wide range of personalities and conditions. In many ways, the passions and controversies of our time existed then as well. With his use of the Camera Eye and the Newsreel, he captures the kaleidoscope nature of the modern age. These chapters capture in print the powerful impact of media: film and newsreel. If written in our times John Dos Passos would have tried to Of the John dos Passos trilogy: The Big Money ( USA., #3 ) has the best characterization, and story lines. This is contains a wide range of personalities and conditions. In many ways, the passions and controversies of our time existed then as well. With his use of the Camera Eye and the Newsreel, he captures the kaleidoscope nature of the modern age. These chapters capture in print the powerful impact of media: film and newsreel. If written in our times John Dos Passos would have tried to capture the internet, and social media. He also includes brief biographies of important individuals on the American public stage as these offer a deeper backdrop to the persons and events to his narrative. It is worth a read, in this book you will experience America as it comes of age in the early twentieth century.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jared T. Fischer

    U.S.A. was one of my best reading experiences in American literature. All 3 volumes held my interest. The short bios of famous business innovators and the newsreels were fabulous and had the freedom of poetry. The character based sections worked like engrossing short stories and benefited from being progressively interconnected. The dialogue was fun and the presence of a beat-down revolutionary spirit throughout the volumes tied it all together. This series will stir up your working class rage U.S.A. was one of my best reading experiences in American literature. All 3 volumes held my interest. The short bios of famous business innovators and the newsreels were fabulous and had the freedom of poetry. The character based sections worked like engrossing short stories and benefited from being progressively interconnected. The dialogue was fun and the presence of a beat-down revolutionary spirit throughout the volumes tied it all together. This series will stir up your working class rage and make you feel more leftist, although not without ample cynicism and growing distrust of all things human. This literature is excellent for filling blanks of your historical and cultural education. Highly recommended. Perfect for the times we live in.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Charley Anderson: riffin' off that old Minnesotan drunk FSFitzgerald, that old Jay Gatsby-gangster as big as the Ritz. Bureaucracy and rationalization kill the little guy, and probably the big guy's soul too. Here is the kernel of disgruntled individualism that lies in productive tension with Dos Passos's early leftism, something that later evolves into Dos Passos's later right-wing crazy libertarianism and McCarthyism. Leftisms can certainly romanticize the individual, the creator of value, the Charley Anderson: riffin' off that old Minnesotan drunk FSFitzgerald, that old Jay Gatsby-gangster as big as the Ritz. Bureaucracy and rationalization kill the little guy, and probably the big guy's soul too. Here is the kernel of disgruntled individualism that lies in productive tension with Dos Passos's early leftism, something that later evolves into Dos Passos's later right-wing crazy libertarianism and McCarthyism. Leftisms can certainly romanticize the individual, the creator of value, the maker, the worker too - is this at the root of the shadow-side? (We crazy lefties have far more in common with Tea Partiers than we might care to admit). In high modernist collage style, oh yeah...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Owen

    "the law stares across the desk out of angry eyes his face reddens in splotches like a gobbler's neck with the strut of the power of submachine guns sawedoffshotguns teargas and vommitgas the power that can feed you or leave you to starve. sits easy at his desk his back covered he feels strong behind him he feels the prosecutingattorney the judge an owner himself the political boss the minesuperintendent the board of directors the president of the utility the manipulator of the holdingcompany he "the law stares across the desk out of angry eyes his face reddens in splotches like a gobbler's neck with the strut of the power of submachine guns sawedoffshotguns teargas and vommitgas the power that can feed you or leave you to starve. sits easy at his desk his back covered he feels strong behind him he feels the prosecutingattorney the judge an owner himself the political boss the minesuperintendent the board of directors the president of the utility the manipulator of the holdingcompany he lifts his hand toward the telephone the deputies crowd in the door we have only words against"

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike Moore

    It’s not accurate to say that Dos Passos brings things together in the final volume of his USA trilogy, but his vision is more compelling than in previous books and, with the benefit of them as prologue, his design becomes more clear. The title is apt for a book on corruption by a socialist, but Dos Passos is too subtle and introspective for his work to devolve into simple-minded tract. His sympathies are clear, but the complexities of the situation don’t escape him and there's no strident hero It’s not accurate to say that Dos Passos brings things together in the final volume of his USA trilogy, but his vision is more compelling than in previous books and, with the benefit of them as prologue, his design becomes more clear. The title is apt for a book on corruption by a socialist, but Dos Passos is too subtle and introspective for his work to devolve into simple-minded tract. His sympathies are clear, but the complexities of the situation don’t escape him and there's no strident hero of the working class coming through morally unscathed. Indeed, the trilogy could constitute a treatise on how to lose your humanity and offers little if any advice on how it can be kept.

  27. 5 out of 5

    John

    The U.S.A. Trilogy is a phenomenal series. The first two books are the strongest in my opinion, but The Big Money is still an excellent book. This one chronicles the lives of primarily four individuals--two from the previous books and two new ones. Dos Passos remains committed to following people in the lower, middle, and upper classes of society giving a unique insight into America in the 1920s. Dos Passos again shows the ugly underbelly of America without reservation, yet his characters are The U.S.A. Trilogy is a phenomenal series. The first two books are the strongest in my opinion, but The Big Money is still an excellent book. This one chronicles the lives of primarily four individuals--two from the previous books and two new ones. Dos Passos remains committed to following people in the lower, middle, and upper classes of society giving a unique insight into America in the 1920s. Dos Passos again shows the ugly underbelly of America without reservation, yet his characters are sympathetic. This is a masterwork of fiction and should not be missed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Great final volume to the outstanding USA trilogy; Dos Passos has a very particular way of writing which perfectly captures the tenor of the era and of course knowing what came later must color the way we see this period and perceive his pessimism. Not sure how key the Newsreel and Camera Eye motifs are--I know that initially had put me off reading--but I suspect that have an accumulative effect I didn't really know much about this period in US history so the detail is great. Overall, USA is a Great final volume to the outstanding USA trilogy; Dos Passos has a very particular way of writing which perfectly captures the tenor of the era and of course knowing what came later must color the way we see this period and perceive his pessimism. Not sure how key the Newsreel and Camera Eye motifs are--I know that initially had put me off reading--but I suspect that have an accumulative effect I didn't really know much about this period in US history so the detail is great. Overall, USA is a towering achievement.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Jesus Christ, do I really have to summarize the experience of the U.S.A. Trilogy in an internet comments section? Panoramic and epic aren't sufficient adjectives. The gold standard of American breadth and scope, perhaps? All the sadness, struggle, and over-brimming ambition, desperation, and fantasy surely lies within its covers. And there's this challenge -- if our generation doesn't produce its own answer to Dos Passos' expansive vision we have failed ourselves.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hilton King

    The first and last books of the trilogy are the best. The Big Money was the last. If you like the lost generation. Read this book. If you don't like the lost generation, read this book. You just might like it. Was it a book where the maincharacter was the protagonist? Yes. I think Dos hit his mark.

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