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E.L. Doctorow

SFG75

Well-Known Member
I'm currently reading Ragtime, his 1975 smash hit that is a fictional account of early 20th century America. Ragtime is great as it covers a part of history that I'm very interested in. Sigmund Freud, Houdini, Emma Goldman, and other colorful characters are in this book-a good read, and not too stuffy.Here is a pretty comprehensive source on his life and work.

So, which is your favorite?:cool:
 
I got given a couple of years ago one which isn't on his list of books. It's called City of God published in 2000 I think. My brother-in-law, who did a couple of years in the US studying literature says it's his favourite book; well it was two years ago. I've read it twice and still haven't seen exactly where he's coming from, as it jumps all over the place, though I did enjoy it. I think I need to try again.
 

muggle

New Member
I bought "The March" for my wife for Christmas. From Amazon:

As the Civil War was moving toward its inevitable conclusion, General William Tecumseh Sherman marched 60,000 Union troops through Georgia and the Carolinas, leaving a 60-mile-wide trail of death, destruction, looting, thievery and chaos. In The March, E.L. Doctorow has put his unique stamp on these events by staying close to historical fact, naming real people and places and then imagining the rest, as he did in Ragtime.

The characters depicted on the march are those people high and low, white and black, whose lives are forever changed by war: Pearl, the newly free daughter of a white plantation owner and one of his slaves, Colonel Sartorius, a competent, remote, almost robotic surgeon; several officers, both Union and Confederate; two soldiers, Arly and Will, who provide comic relief in the manner of Shakespeare's fools until, suddenly, their roles are not funny anymore.
 

SFG75

Well-Known Member
muggle-That one is supposed to be really good, I've read a lot of reviews singing praises on that one.:cool:
 

muggle

New Member
SFG75 said:
muggle-That one is supposed to be really good, I've read a lot of reviews singing praises on that one.:cool:
I bought it for my wife. After she reads the book, and if she likes it, then I will give it a try.:D

thanks SFG75, the book reviews are good.
 

pontalba

Well-Known Member
muggle said:
I bought it for my wife. After she reads the book, and if she likes it, then I will give it a try.:D

thanks SFG75, the book reviews are good.
The March is near the top of my TBR stack. I'd kind of been 'Civil War(ed)' out, but this one looked to be on a different track.
 

SFG75

Well-Known Member
E.L.Doctorow's works

He's a pretty good historical fiction writer. I started Ragtime once but didn't finish it for some odd reason. Any thoughts about the guy? If anyone wants to do a Ragtime book of the month type of thing in this thread, let me know, I'd be interested in doing some reading and comparing notes with ya.:)
 

Shade

New Member
In response to SFG's request for thoughts on his books, I read Ragtime earlier this year, and here is what I posted on it elsewhere.

Doctorow is a writer I've been meaning to get into for ages. Because of the subject matter of his most famous novel, Ragtime - the early twentieth century in all its glory and goriness - I tend to think of him as a classic of yesteryear, when in fact he's still writing keenly and published his latest novel The March just a month or two back. Indeed Ragtime dates from as recently (ie within my lifetime) as 1974, though I never got around to picking up a copy until the irresistible new Penguin Modern Classics edition came out last month.

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And it's a spectacularly unexpected read, almost literal in its metaphorical structure (dense, colliding, messed up, as the years he wishes to present to us), and quite untraditional in terms of normal storytelling. Instead Doctorow takes famous figures like Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, President Taft, J.P. Morgan, and dumps them in his literary blender and mixes them up not only with one another but with a fictional family without names - Mother, Father, Mother's Younger Brother, and so on - to highly impressive effect.

The result is not as difficult and trying as he might imply in the epigraph

"Do not play this piece fast. It is never right to play Ragtime fast..." - Scott Joplin (who also appears as a character in the book)
but it is dense and thriving with much more life per page than most modern fiction. Only in the second half of the book does a unifying plot come in, with the (fictional?) figure of Coalhouse Walker, a black man who begins a terrorist campaign against the city authorities after members of the fire department pimp his ride in all the wrong ways (by laying a turd on the back seat and slashing the roof). This brings the novel to a rather more traditional conclusion and runs a real risk of making it rather more pageturning that Scott Joplin would like. But what does he know? He died three-quarters of the way through.
 

mehastings

Active Member
I started reading Ragtime a tiny bit ago, but stopped because I left it somewhere. I hope to get it back soon. I enjoyed what little I read and I'm looking forward to picking it back up again, particularly after the shade's review.

My mother read has a copy of The March (not to be confused with March) and really enjoyed it. She was supposed to leave me her copy, but forgot. So, to make a long story short, I'd love to read one of these in concert with other members, but I don't have access right now. You might, however, want to suggest it for BOTM (can't remember if it is already in there).
 

SFG75

Well-Known Member
I hear ya mehastings, I did a similar thing myself not too long ago with ragtime. I'm going to start it again in about a week. I have the next four days off and I plan on doing some serious reading.
 

SFG75

Well-Known Member
I'm currently giving Ragtime another go and I'm on page 70 right now. I do enjoy how Evelyn has all of these famous people and events woven around her. In talking with the famous Emma Goldman, Doctorow retells the assasination attempt on Henry Clay Frick by Alexander Berkman. I also enjoyed the reference to Freud's journey to America with C.G. Jung. An interesting account can be found on the web here. So far, so good in my reading. I'm looking to get a good hour and a half in tonight still.
 

753C

Active Member
I just finished reading Billy Bathgate and really enjoyed it. (I mean really, really enjoyed it.) I am constantly trying to find a great story combined with outstanding writing and this one did it for me.
It's a piece of historical fiction involving a young boy (Billy) from the Bronx trying to catch on with a gang of bootleggers and policy racketeers headed by the ruthless Dutch Schultz. The story is set in the time period just following the end of prohibition, and really takes you on a tour of the underbelly of New York city. Doctorow's writing is pure poetry in his descriptions of the people and places, and his characters are colorful and real. The tension is masterfully injected as Dutch becomes more and more unpredictable and Billy is willingly drawn deeper and deeper into the gang.

I would recommend this book highly. I'm interested to know if anyone else read it and what their thoughts might be. I enjoyed it so much that I went right out and bought a copy of "Loon Lake" and am enjoying that as well so far.
 

SFG75

Well-Known Member
I'm going to have to check out Billy Bathgate. I did read waterworks, I'm not sure why I failed to mention that previously. I did like it, but I thought Ragtime to be a better book.
 
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