Remembering E.L. Doctorow

E.L. Doctorow, celebrated author of inventive, historical fiction, passed away yesterday in Manhattan from complications from lung cancer. He was 84.

Throughout his career, Doctorow often spun historically familiar places and characters into new fictive settings in works such as “Billy Bathgate,” “The Book of Daniel,” and “Ragtime.” The results could be in turns humorous, poignant, and surprising. In many cases, they resulted in subtle but meaningful critiques of American culture. “Ragtime,” for example, is set in the early 1900s, and features characters like Harry Houdini and Emma Goldman alongside the purely fictitious Coalhouse Walker, an African American musician. The story centers around Walker’s gross mistreatment within the justice system, which leads him to vigilantism. In many ways, the novel foreshadows the racial unrest that is still present today.

The last time we spoke with Doctorow was right after he had published 2005's “The March,” a historical novel centering around William Tecumseh Sherman at the tail end of the Civil War. That novel was awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The interview features Doctorow’s conversation with Steve Paulson, as well as readings from the novel by Karl Schmidt.

The March

E.L. Doctorow on "The March"

E.L. Doctorow's latest novel is called "The March" and is about the devastating effect on the South during the Civil War of General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Your rating: None
Average: 2 (3 votes)