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The Big Money

Narrated by: David Drummond
Series: U.S.A., Book 3
Length: 19 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (86 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Historical (Experimental) Novel

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Finally!

Read the first two parts of the three-book novel in paperback..The first part was getting used to the style and disjointed nature...Following the characters is tough, but eventually you let the whole thing wash over you..The biographies, newsreels and Camera's Eye were welcome distractions..Powerful, tragic, infuriating and apropos..Update the references and you could write a similar book today..Not much has changed...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The culmination of an amazing journey

When I set out on this journey three novels ago, I wasn't sure how engaged I would be. Not that I don't appreciate the subject matter. As a labor activist, I fully appreciate the importance of the period in question as these years surrounding World War I were critical to the growth of the labor movement. Rather, I was concerned how the zealous observations of a committed leftist would color their perspective of an era where America wrestled with the demands of the contradictions of an expanding global corporate footprint and a struggling working class.

What I came away with was how concerted and sanctioned the effort to keep workers from organizing and how tone deaf was capital and the courts to the legitimate suffering of workers in mining and steel country.

Sadly, while many of these conditions have improved, the cooperation between commerce, government and the courts continues to make it difficult to organize. Though the labels have changed, the demonization of those who strive to organize continues.

The U.S.A. Trilogy and Big Money demonstrate that so many of the arguments for and against the capitalist system haven't improved over the last 80+ years since Dos Passos took up the subject. The characters are as relevant now as when the author conceived them. the 1,300+ pages may seem daunting, but the story moves and the characters interweave to show the complicated tapestry of this nation and the people who have always made it great, even if only minor characters.

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The start of something big

Would you listen to The Big Money again? Why?

Probably not as I have read the trilogy already before hearing it.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

What does David Drummond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

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.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, I liked it. Dos Passos brought a detached presence to much of his prose, and it shows.

Any additional comments?

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.