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, the novels of the U.S.A. trilogy - both individually and as a whole - paint a sweeping portrait of collective America and showcase the brilliance and bravery of one of its most enduring and admired writers.
©1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, renewed 1963, 1964 John Dos Passos (P)2010 Tantor
I read and listened to this book because I was taking a class about Depression-era film & literature. What Dos Passos did was integrate a colloquial, real, personal, and fictional history in the U.S.A. trilogy ("The Big Money" is the third part of the trilogy). He used real headlines from newspapers of the time period along with advertising slogans and pop songs in the "Newsreel" portions of the novel. These are really fun to hear through the audio performance, and one of the reasons it is worth listening to.
The "Camera Eye" portion of the novel was harder to listen to, and in truth, it is difficult to read without some contextual information. These are largely stream-of-consciousness portions which Dos Passos used to describe his own memories. They are poetic at times--and like most poetry--benefit from being seen on the page.
The biography sections of the novel are fantastic, and worth the price of the book. His depictions of T. Veblen, I. Duncan, W. Hearst, The Wright Bros. (and more!) are fascinating studies of the larger-than-life historical figures whom we might have only heard about in positive ways in history books. A definite strength of the book.
His fictional portions, the characters he strings through these other portions of the book are engaging and interesting. A satisfying read, worth your time and money.
Probably not as I have read the trilogy already before hearing it.
Mac's youthful adventures on the road start the tale strongly, reminiscent of Twain. A great satire of door-to-door salesmen, and lighter in touch than much of Dos Passos before or after.
The grainy, gritty American voices he dramatizes and the Camera Eye and Newsreels sections, difficult to energize, come alive in his command of American vernaculars and period 1920s slang.
No, I liked it. Dos Passos brought a detached presence to much of his prose, and it shows.
Probably more valuable, like Sinclair Lewis, for the life of Americans after WWI as recorded, than for the actual stories. Almost a century after the events, it still speaks for the hopes of the little men and women and how they are crushed or warped or abandoned in the rush for survival and wealth.
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