A graduate of Vassar and the Columbia School of Journalism, Mary Ross was an American freelance writer and reviewer during the twenties and thirties, and associate editor for more than a decade of Survey, for which she wrote on a wide range of social issues. Her review is typical of most reviews of The 42nd Parallel, which were generally quite favourable despite objections to the experiments in narrative technique.
From an old book on American climatology John Dos Passos draws his title. General storms, says its author, travel eastward across the United States from the Rockies to the Atlantic along three paths or tracks, of which the central corresponds roughly to the forty-second parallel of latitude. And at the end of the path, where the storms meet the ocean, rests New York. In this book, a brave experiment in dynamic fiction, Mr. Dos Passos shows the eddying currents of individual lives that ultimately blow through or into the metropolis.
Though four years have passed since the author’s preceding novel, Manhattan Transfer, I can still feel beating in my memory its bright, sharp rhythms, the jangled, unorderly music of the Manhattan of dusty or rain-swept streets, taxis, trucks, steam riveting, jazz and symphonies. Behind its hurrying beat lay only the dim backgrounds that fed their youth into it. The terrible thing about having New York go stale on you,’ said one of the people in Manhattan Transfer, ‘is that there’s nowhere else. It’s the top of the world. All we can do is to go round and round in a squirrel cage.’