Today we launch The Independent’s “Slow Reads.” Every month, we will recommend a book – not a new one – that is worth reading s-l-o-w-l-y, not on the Metro or in snatches. A book for which you will shut down the email and muzzle the tweets, avert your eyes from Facebook, and stop text messaging. We’ll provide a Slow Reads Forum for our readers to share their reactions to the book, and to nominate books for the months to come.
May Slow Reads –
Today we launch The Independent’s “Slow Reads” Book Club, inspired by our very own Martha Toll’s invitation to partake of the pleasures of Slow Reading. Every month, we will recommend a book – not a new one – that is worth reading s-l-o-w-l-y, not on the Metro or in snatches. A book for which you will shut down the email and muzzle the tweets, avert your eyes from Facebook, and stop text messaging. We’ll provide a Slow Reads Forum for our readers to share their reactions to the book, and to nominate books for the months to come.
For our first book, . . .
The 42d Parallel by John Dos Passos
In the throes of the 2012 election, jobs and the economy are center stage. Guess what? We were in a strikingly similar place 100 years ago. Settle down with John Dos Passos’ The 42d Parallel, the first part of his panoramic U.S.A. trilogy. You’ll taste, feel, and smell the price of progress in the teeming dawn of America’s Twentieth Century.
And more current reviews of the book are unanimous:
“…Times and conditions may change, but people don’t . . . Indeed much of the world that now seems old and familiar to us was just taking shape as Dos Passos wrote these three books, and it is fascinating to see it emerge in these pages. Advertising, public relations, the movies, easy credit, playing the market. All of this and much else that we now take for granted was new and exciting then, but Dos Passos’s critique of all of it is as pungent today as it was then.
…He was best when he wrote plainly, about the dreams and disappointments of plain people. No American writer ever cared more deeply about them or wrote about them more honestly.”
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
“…The plan of U.S.A. is panoramic: its aim is to show almost the whole picture of American life in the first three decades of this century, . . . . The three novels are composed of four distinct parts: “newsreels,” in which headlines and newspaper stories, advertisements, and snatches of contemporary popular songs are placed in sometimes comic, often ironic juxtaposition; “camera eyes” (fifty-one of these), in which Dos Passos offers, in stream-of-consciousness prose, autobiographical recollections of a period he is writing about elsewhere in the novel; biographies (twenty-six of these) of great or emblematic figures of the time, such as…Henry Ford,…J.P. Morgan,…and Isadora Duncan…; and, finally, narratives of the lives of twelve major characters, and half a dozen important secondary ones…
The result is something like a multimedia event within a single book. Dos Passos had devised, through a montage-like method, an impressive apparatus for delineating collective historical experience.”
Joseph Epstein, New Yorker, August 5, 1996