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28.12.07

À mon chevet: The 42nd Parallel

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À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
The sea was glassy, with dirty undulating patches of weed and garbage. There were gulls sitting on the water or perched on bits of floating wood. Now and then a gull stretched its wings lazily and flew off crying. The boat's bluff bow cut two even waves through dense glassgreen water. Charley tried to talk to the lookout. He pointed ahead. "East," he said, "France." The lookout paid no attention. Charley pointed back towards the smoky west. "West," he said and tapped himself on the chest. "My home Fargo, North Dakota." But the lookout just shook his head and put his finger to his lips. "France very far east ... submarines ... war," said Charley. The lookout put his hand over his mouth. At last he made Charley understand that he wasn't supposed to talk to him.

-- John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel (1929), "Charley Anderson," p. 323
These are the final words in the first volume of the U.S.A. trilogy. In an unusual choice, Dos Passos closed the book, in the opening days of World War I, with a narrative section involving a completely new character, who ultimately is woven into the story, although not without seeming like a stretch. Even so, this is a satisfying read, especially the Janey narrative in its early part, set in Georgetown. On to 1919!

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