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The Big Money by John Roderigo Dos Passos
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The Big Money (1936)

by John Roderigo Dos Passos

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: U.S.A. Trilogy (3), Trilogía U.S.A. (3)

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Dos Passos's USA Trilogy reads as one unified novel, though he published the three books over the course of a decade. It's a masterpiece, totally overlooked in discussions of great American novels. The novels have a peculiar form, alternating fictional plot lines focused on individual characters with collages of news headlines, stream-of-consciousness narration from moments in the author's experience, and short, poetic biographies of important Americans.

Each book in the trilogy has a slightly different cast of fictional characters, and focuses on a different decade of US history. 42nd Parallel covers roughly 1905-1915, 1919 covers WWI, and Big Money the "Roaring Twenties." One of the pleasures of reading all three is seeing how the characters' lives converge and they come to interact and influence one another. Dos Passos tries to be broadly representative: the characters of Big Money include Charley Anderson, an aviation engineer; Margo Dowling, a stage and then screen actress; Mary French, a labor organizer; and Dick Savage, a publicist and writer based on Dos Passos himself. Although Dos Passos's sympathies in the entire trilogy are with the underdogs--the working class and labor organizers--there is no villain, no true antagonist in the novels except maybe for the way modern capitalism (specifically, early 20th-century monopoly capitalism) forces people to compromise themselves morally.

There's not much interiority in the books. Characters act, and their actions are presented in mostly matter-of-fact language. But I found the stories utterly compelling. 1919 was my favorite of the three. It ends with the famous biography of "An American Soldier," a composite tribute to the nameless, forgotten casualties of WWI (Dos Passos, like Hemingway, volunteered for the ambulance corps in that conflict). It's beautiful and heartbreaking. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Not a bad trilogy, but I was definitely ready for the end of it. There was just so much bad stuff that kept happening to everyone. Very anti-American dream. It's depressing to think that there were (and still are) people who live their lives completely day to day like that and spend as much time slacking off as possible.

I did like the narrative style. It was interesting how he didn't really wrap up anyone's story (unless they died). It made it seem like we were just getting to see a slice of these people's lives. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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 ( )
1 vote theokester | Dec 22, 2009 |
Dos Passos, John. The Big Money.
  BrianDewey | Jul 30, 2007 |
A real downer compared to the other two books. ( )
  nervenet | May 29, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Passos, John Roderigo Dosprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Geismar, MaxwellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marsh, ReginaldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618056831, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:46 -0400)

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.… (more)

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