Unique among American novels for its epic scope and panoramic and social sweep, John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. has long been acknowledged as a monument of modern fiction. In the novels that make up the trilogy—The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936)—Dos Passos creates an unforgettable collective portrait of America, shot through with sardonic comedy and brilliant social observation. He interweaves the careers of his characters and the events of their time with a narrative verve and breathtaking technical skill that make U.S.A. among the most compulsively readable of modern classics. In his prologue Dos Passos writes:
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 stock quotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a blackboard, a public library full of old newspapers and dogeared history books with protests scrawled on the margins in pencil…But mostly U.S.A. is the speech of the people.
The trilogy is filled with American speech: labor radicals and advertising executives, sailors and stenographers, interior decorators and movie stars.