E.L. Doctorow, Author of Ragtime, Dead at 84

23 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Ragtime’ author E.L. Doctorow dies in New York at 84.

Best known for his novel Ragtime – a story about the turn of the 20th century– Doctorow published 10 novels, two books of short stories, a play titled Drinks Before Dinner and countless essays and articles in his 50-year career.He won the National Book Award for fiction in 1986 for World’s Fair and the National Book Critics Circle award in 1989 for Billy Bathgate and in 2005 for The March. “Someone pointed out to me a couple of years ago that you could line them up and in effect now with this book, 150 years of American history … Young Edgar’s report on the elderly man was replete with details both dramatic and intimate: How Karl was a great lover of music and was a favorite among the artists who frequented the famous concert hall. Student of political and literary history and how they tell us who we are now. “Underlying everything — the evocative flashes, the dogged working of language — is the writer’s belief in the story as a system of knowledge,” he wrote in the introduction to his essay collection “Creationists,” published in 2006. “This belief is akin to the scientist’s faith in the scientific method as a way to truth.” Doctorow was among the most honored authors of the past 40 years.

How every evening he would arrive at work with a brown bag lunch and a thermos full of tea, which he drank in the Old World style, sticking a cube of sugar in his teeth and drinking through the melting crystals. His father, David Doctorow, ran a music store, and his mother, Rose Doctorow, was a pianist. “Not only what was going to happen next, but how is this done? This is the line of inquiry that I think happens in a child’s mind, without him even knowing he has aspirations as a writer.” Doctorow graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

And this was entirely unplanned.” A balding man with a soft goatee and impish expression, Doctorow was little known to the general public before age 40, but by late middle age was not just a popular author but a kind of wise man and liberal conscience. He was a book editor before he was an author, working through the 60s with writers including Ian Fleming, Ayn Rand and Norman Mailer, before he left the world of publishing in 1969, to write himself. It was his first attempt at the kind of storytelling that would win him wide popularity and critical acclaim, a trick for inventing fictional (or fictionalized) characters who animate places and times that are very much real. Bush and urge him not go to war against Iraq or, to some boos, criticize the second President Bush and second Iraq War in a commencement speech at Hofstra University on Long Island. “With each new president, the nation is conformed spiritually.

The award-winning author of a dozen novels, three short story collections and countless commentaries on culture and politics died in New York Tuesday at age 84. Ragtime in 1975 served up a Dickensian stew of Gilded Age New York, mixing historical figures such as JP Morgan, Harry Houdini and Emma Goldman with invented ones.

He was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany during the mid-1950s, and eventually found himself back in the city of his birth, working as a “reader” for a movie studio. Historical and made-up characters also peopled 1989’s Billy Bathgate, featuring the real-life gangster Dutch Schultz, and The March, which he called his “Russian novel” because of its epic scope. He was assigned to read dozens upon dozens of Western novels and determine whether they were good enough to be adapted for film. “I found myself reading these awful, terrible Westerns day after day. Several of Doctorow’s novels including Ragtime and Billy Bathgate were made into films, but Doctorow was generally not pleased with the screen versions.

An effort to vent his creative frustration into a parody turned into the first chapter of a more serious novel set in Dakota Territory during its 19th century boom. But he also championed books as a superior form of creativity, contrasting the budget for staging a battle on screen with the more probing and cost effective arrangement of a few hundred words on the page. “Fiction goes everywhere, inside, outside, it stops, it goes, its action can be mental. Morgan a talking-to, while the “younger brother” in the novel’s central family (the members of which are never named) is in love with real-life socialite Evelyn Nesbit. His critical breakthrough came in 1971 with “The Book of Daniel.” A fictionalized account of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case, “The Book of Daniel” probed the central character’s struggles over the deaths of his parents, executed as Communists in the 1950s. In “The March,” he depicted William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas from the vantage points of Sherman himself, a mixed-race freed slave girl, a brilliant but dispassionate battlefield surgeon and two Confederate prisoners who adopt various disguises. “History is the present.

So to be irreverent to myth, to play with it, let in some light and air, to try to combust it back into history, is to risk being seen as someone who distorts truth,” he told the Paris Review in 1986. “… Everything in Ragtime is true. It is as true as I could make it.” Though he experimented with subject and style, Doctorow continued to “fiddle” with history for nearly every one of his subsequent novels.

He’d been discussing the issue that he often finds himself talking about — that history is formed from the telling of stories — but this time, he accused President George W.

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