Information about the author.
In 1864, after Union general William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta, he marched his sixty thousand troops east through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces and lived off the land, pillaging the Southern plantations, taking cattle and crops for their own, demolishing cities, and accumulating a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the uprooted, the dispossessed, and the triumphant. Only a master novelist could so powerfully and compassionately render the lives of those who marched.
The author of Ragtime, City of God, and The Book of Daniel has given us a magisterial work with an enormous cast of unforgettable characters–white and black, men, women, and children, unionists and rebels, generals and privates, freed slaves and slave owners. At the center is General Sherman himself; a beautiful freed slave girl named Pearl; a Union regimental…[more]
In 1930’s New York, Billy Bathgate, a fifteen-year-old high-school dropout, has captured the attention of infamous gangster Dutch Schultz, who lures the boy into his world of racketeering. The product of an East Bronx upbringing by his half-crazy Irish Catholic mother, after his Jewish father left them long ago, Billy is captivated by the world of money, sex, and high society the charismatic Schultz has to offer. But it is also a world of extortion, brutality, and murder, where Billy finds himself involved in a dangerous affair with Schultz’s girlfriend. Relive this story through the title character’s driving narrative, a child’s thoughts and feelings filtered through the sensibilities of an adult, and the result is E.L. Doctorow’s most convincing and appealing portrayal of a young boy’s life. Converging mythology and history, one of America’s most admired authors has captured the romance of gangsters and criminal enterprise that continues to fascinate the American psyche today.
Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War.
The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow’s imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.
It is America in the great depression, and he is a child of that time, that place. He runs away from home in Paterson, New Jersey, to New York City and learns the bare bones of life before he hits the road with a traveling carnival. Then one icy night in the Adirondacks, the young man sees a private train roar by. In its lit windows, he spies an industrial tycoon, a poet, a gangster, and a heartbreakingly beautiful girl. He follows them, as one follows a dream, to an isolated private estate on Loon Lake.
Thus the stage is set for a spellbinding tale of mystery and menace, greed and ambition, harsh lust and tender love, that lays bare the darkest depths of the human heart and the nightmarish underside of the American dream. E. L. Doctorow has written a novel aglow with poetry and passion, lit by the burning fire of humanity and history, terror and truth.
New York is the setting and a central character in this wonderfully moving and evocative novel of a boy growing up and a family surviving in the 1930s.
Told in the voices of its young protoganist, his mother, and his older brother, the story unfolds against a back-ground of the grim economic realities of the Great Depression and the indomitable hopes for the future as embodied in the wondrous exhibits of New York’s World’s Fair. The Altschulers, living in successively smaller apartments in the Bronx, are prey to both. As the raffish father’s Times Square music store slides toward failure, the warring parents live in uneasy truce for the sake of their children and the older brother drifts from promising adolescence toward impecunious young manhood. Meanwhile, the youngest son listens to Tom Mix on the radio, watches the German zeppelin Hindenburg floating over Manhattan, cheers the Giants at the…[more]