Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Party in the U.S.A.

(picture via)
U.S.A. is the slice of a continent. U.S.A. is a group of holding companies, some aggregations of trade unions, a set of laws bound in calf, a radio network, a chain of moving picture theatres, a column of stockquotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a blackboard, a public library full of old newspapers and dogeared historybooks with protests scrawled on the margins in pencil. U.S.A. is the world's greatest rivervalley fringed with mountains and hills, U.S.A. is a set of bigmouthed officials with too many bankaccounts. U.S.A. is a lot of men buried in their uniforms in Arlington Cemetery. U.S.A. is the letters at the end of an address when you are away from home. But mostly U.S.A. is the speech of the people.
Infinite Summer has made reading long books during the summer incredibly popular, so over the next (less than) three months, I'll be working my way through John Dos Passos's [insert modifier indicating scale, impressiveness] U.S.A. trilogy, and I invite you to read along. Or, if you've read it before, to comment along.

The set-up will be very simple: one book, each month (June, July, August). I'm not going to blog my progress while in the middle of a volume, so there won't be any weekly schedule or page pacing, just a post or two near the end of each month to walk through the volume and add some commentary. This leaves June a little foreshortened, but I'm finding that the first volume, The 42nd Parallel, really flies by.

5 comments:

Adam Roberts said...

You shine a light into one of my many shameful corners of my ignorance: I've never read any Dos Passos. Maybe I'll get hold of a copy and join you in reading it this summer.

Erik said...

In a history class we had to draft our final projects. The easy topics got snapped up by the Business and Econ majors. In a fit of arrogance I selected a compare/contrast paper on USA and The Grapes of Wrath. After all, I was the English major, right? And I'd been meaning to read USA.

Then I got it out of the library. Christ, is that thing [modifier indicating scale, impressiveness]. I got through the first two books but sputtered out somewhere in three due to finals.

Some really brilliant writing in there, however. I loved those brief biographies on guys like Debs. My favorite was the one on Luther Burbank, The Plant Wizard. This couplet in particular:

"and they stung him and he died
puzzled."

Loren B. said...

Party on, Andrew. I look forward to hearing how you find them.

bythefirelight said...

I've been wanting to reread this for sometime, ever since a professor said he was in a seminar with Dos Pasos and "the feminists took him to task." I still don't what he meant. I enjoyed it immensely myself.

Shelley said...

Wow, that USA quote. Especially in the light of BP.