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Dos Passos - I

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Not quite done with the trilogy. I'm about a quarter of the way through the last book. It's been very hectic at work and I haven't much time to read or blog. I'll eventually have a longer blog on the interesting construct of this novel, but first I want to revisit the 600 pound gorilla.

I blogged a while back about how sex lurked in the periphery. You knew it had a role in the story, but it was never explicit or really discussed. It's just there. This struck me the most in reading Henry James and Fitzgerald. Although with Fitzgerald, the gorilla was inside the walls of the room and with James he might have been down the hall in the bathroom.

In USA, sex is a theme. As we meet some of the characters, we are introduced to each's attitude toward sex, their first experiences, etc. Boom, right there. It's an interesting step forward compared to evertything I've read to date.

Another interesting observation. Early in the 42nd Parallel, a character drops the f bomb. Whoa, that was another first, but the interesting part is that in 1919, swear words are depicted with the dash method -- you know when Dickens wrote d--n you instead of damn you. I'm wondering if Dos Passos' publisher decided that in the second and third books, they weren't going to shock America with the actual word. It hasn't appeared since that single dropping of the bomb in the first book.

A final tidbit. I read many books leading up to reading USA. In 1919, a character is regaled by a man telling a story about Death Valley and Sangre de Cristos mountains. It was a quick little paragraph, but if I hadn't read everything that I had, I would have never recognized this little tip of the hat to Frank Norris's McTeague. Maybe I'm learning something from this little journey after all.
My Literary Journey


  1. Dark Muse's Avatar
    I have read Big Money, haven't read the others yet. But I really enjoyed Big Money, I thought it was quite interesting and I like his style of writing. Very different.
  2. Virgil's Avatar
    I've never read Dos Passos. Is the writing any good? I usually think in terms of writing rather than story.
  3. Dark Muse's Avatar
    His writing is very experimental so if you like more "traditionaly" written stories you would probably not like it. But if you like things that really got out of the realm of the normal it is interesting.

    And within The Big Money he acutally imploys more then one different style of writing, some if it is very poetic and elegant prose and some of it is very terse, matter of fact, surface level.
  4. Virgil's Avatar
    I don't mind experimental if it's good.
  5. Dark Muse's Avatar
    Well I think he is good