The 42nd Parallel: Volume One of the U.S.A. Trilogy
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The trilogy opens with THE 42nd PARALLEL, where we find a young country at the dawn of the twentieth century. Slowly, in stories artfully spliced together, the lives and fortunes of five characters unfold. Mac, Janey, Eleanor, Ward, and Charley are caught on the storm track of this parallel and blown New Yorkward. As their lives cross and double back again, the likes of Eugene Debs, Thomas Edison, and Andrew Carnegie make cameo appearances.
cried when he left and all the anarchists came down to the station to see him off. Mac wanted to join Zapata. He’d picked up a little Spanish from Encarnacion and a vague idea of the politics of the revolution. The train took five days. Five times it was held up while the section hands repaired the track ahead. Occasionally at night bullets came through the windows. Near Caballos a bunch of men on horses rode the whole length of the train waving their big hats and firing as they went. The
spring Charley was getting ready to graduate from the eighth grade they came to visit Mrs. Anderson. Jim smoked cigars right in the house and jollied his mother and while he was there there was no talk of biblereading. Jim took Charley fishing one Sunday up the Sheyenne and told him that if he came down to the Twin Cities when school was over he’d give him a job helping round the garage he was starting up in part of his fatherinlaw’s liverystable. It sounded good when he told the other guys in
on in this zero weather. He left the hospital before Michaelson did and the last thing Michaelson said when Charley leaned over him to shake his dry bony hand was “Boy, you read Henry George, do you hear . . . ? He knows what’s the trouble with this country; damme if he don’t.” Charley was so glad to be walking on his pins down the snowy street in the dryicecold wind and to get the smell of iodoform and sick people out of his head that he forgot all about it. First thing he did was to go to
mashed potatoes, beef stew and limabeans with pork. She poured them out coffee and then said with moist eyes, as she sat down herself: “I love to see men eat.” Her face took on a crushed pansy look that made Fainy turn away his eyes when he found himself looking at it. After supper she sat listening with a pleased, frightened expression while Doc Bingham talked and talked, now and then stopping to lean back and blow a smoke ring at the lamp. “While not myself a Lutheran as you might say,
goodlookin’when I married him . . . I never could resist a goodlookin’ man.” Doc Bingham leaned further across the table. His eyes rolled as if they were going to drop out. “I never could resist a goodlooking lady.” Mrs. Kovach sighed deeply. Fainy got up and went out. He’d been trying to get in a word about getting paid, but what was the use? Outside it was chilly; the stars were bright above the roofs of the barns and outhouses. From the chickencoop came an occasional sleepy cluck or the