1936, Books, Fiction

The Big Money (1936) by John Dos Passos

Whereas I found Nineteen Nineteen to be a significant improvement on the first book, The Big Money feels like he has lapsed back into his bad habits, and he gets confused between the form and the storytelling. He is still writing reasonably compelling stories but he can’t decide whether he wants to tell one person’s story or the country’s.

So we get tons of two characters in this book, and the others are glimpsed only a little, as they somehow manage to meet each other at dinners and parties and such. (Reading the USA trilogy, one becomes convinced that the United States has as few people in it as Canada.)

And he just isn’t consistent with his form. “The Camera Eye” almost disappears for whole sections of this book. And we get a chapter about one guy and, just like the first novel, we don’t here from him again for hundreds of pages. I’m not taking notes. (At least, I refuse to take notes.) I need to be reminded that some of these people exist more often than every 150-200 pages.

I sort of thought he had worked things out in part 2, which is why I read part 3. But I have found that really this has to be one of the most overrated works of the 20th century. Yes, he did do something new and different, but he didn’t do it well, and certainly that is as important as doing it first.


  • Author: John Dos Passos
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Library of America
  • Media type: Hardcover
  • Pages: 1312 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-883011-14-7
  • OCLC: 33819088
  • Dewey Decimal: 813.52 20
  • LC Class: PS3507.O743 A6 1996

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