Books, RIP

RIP EL Doctorow

I got into E.L. Doctorow because he was once one of my father’s favourite American novelists. Over the years I read eight of his twelve novels – though not his most famous, Ragtime – one of his two short story collections and his play. I haven’t read any of them recently.

I feel like I am slowly coming into my own, writing about nonfiction – particularly nonfiction I dislike – but I have never felt good about how I write about fiction. So I struggle with what to say here.

Doctorow’s historical fiction challenges the way we view the past, much like Gore Vidal’s historical fiction. However, unlike Vidal, who dealt with the near-mythological figures of the United States’ history, Doctorow deals with the Little Guy. This made his work both more subtle (and more nuanced) and more about the actual people, time and place, than Vidal’s work, which was concerned with turning our ideas on their heads, more than it was with any genuine sense of place, or with well drawn characters.

I haven’t read a Doctorow novel I didn’t like – though I read most in my late teens / early 20s, so maybe my tastes have changed – and, for me, he really was, as Obama tweeted, one of the great American authors.

I feel really sad today and I have a renewed interest in finishing his oeuvre; something I got sidetracked out of a while ago by other authors and because I ran out of books to borrow from my father.

This was written on July 21, 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.