history the billiondollar speedup


Senior Member
Dear all
Please tell me how do you read or interprete "history the billiondollar speedup" in the following context taken from "Vag" in "The Big Money", "USA" by Dos Passos:
Time: 1920s - on the eve of the Great Depression
Location: an aeroplane over Salt Lake area flying from Newark to LA
The transcontinental passenger thinks contracts, profits, vacationtrips, mighty continent between Atlantic and Pacific, power, wires humming dollars, cities jammed, hills empty, the indiantrail leading into wagonroad, the macadamed pike, the concrete skyway; trains, planes: history the billiondollar speedup,
and in the bumpy air over the desert ranges towards Las Vegas
sickens and vomits into the carton container the steak and mushrooms he ate in New York. No matter, sliver in the pocket, greenbacks in the wallet, ... plenty restaurants in L.A.
Please note the punctuation: ";tranis, planes: history the billiondollar speedup,"
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  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hello, Karoba!

    In this sentence, we have a progression:
    First, there is an Indian trail.
    That Indian trail gets used by European settlers, and over time turns into an unpaved wagon road.
    Eventually that wagon road acquires rudimentary pavement, and becomes a "pike" with a macadam surface.
    Now, in the 20th Century, the route of the old "pike" is built up and expanded into a modern superhighway, called here a "concrete skyway", because it is probably elevated.

    On each succeeding road, travel can become faster and faster. Over history, money is spent to speed travel, and more money can in turn be derived from the increase in commerce that faster travel allows: "history" (or the passage of time) is thus the "billion-dollar speedup".
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    Senior Member
    English - US and Dude - a California dialect
    This appears to be a stream of consciousness writing style, a poetic style where grammar is not adhered to but instead, word association without contemplation is emphasized. All you can do with this style is think about the meanings of each word and their connections to each other.
    It seems to me like a commentary on the history of humans suddenly changing in the 20th century to be centered around large amounts of artificial money and extremely rapid changes in technology, as compared to previous centuries.


    Senior Member
    No doubt! It sure is a stream of consciousness.
    To have a better understanding of this stream, am I right to understand that the "transcontinental passenger", while on the plane, thinks to lots of things from contracts, profits, the mighty continent, to the indiantrails leading into the wagonroad, the macadamed road, the highway, also to trains, planes? to passage of time and the billion dollar profits this "speedup" would bring?


    Senior Member
    English English
    The way I read it, he thinks of all that 'roady' stuff and then [semi-colon] his next brilliant thought is all those trains and planes to make money from ~ even and ever more greenbacks!
    The sky's the limit, literally.
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