Completely unique. The techniques utilized to fine effect by Dos Passos create a surprisingly modern and cinematic feel, especially considering these..Show More » books were written 80 years ago! In particular, Dos Passos encapsulates visual and audible elements into his prose. The audible parts of the writing, especially newspaper headlines, radio messages, and popular songs, make this a wonderful choice for a book to be listened to as opposed to being read. It is a gift that narrator David Drummond rises brilliantly to the occasion (God this would be a terrifying book to consider reading - and singing - aloud). All this and the 42nd Parallel happens to be one of the most famous books of the 20th Century.... I have read of Ernest Hemingway's respect for Dos Passos. Since that was an exceedingly small camp, as Hemingway seemed to actively hate most writers, I had looked forward to listening to my first Dos Passos novel. I was not disappointed. Throughout the 42nd Parallel, I heard echos of Hemingway dialog and situations. Other writers and artists also. Joyce in particular. And painters. One might do worse than characterizing this novel as a Diego Rivera painting written in prose.
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, ..Show More »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.