The American author, professor, and editor Edgar Lawrence “E. L.” Doctorow was best known internationally for his outstanding works of historical fiction. His novels made him be described as one of the most important U.S.A based novelist of the 20th century. He has authored a couple of novels, a stager drama and short fiction. These include The March (2005), Billy Bathgate (1989) and Ragtime that all worn him awards.
Many of his books places fictional characters in recognizable historical figures, uses different narratives, and are often written with known historical figures. Again, his stories are recognized for their versatility and originality, and Doctorow is also praised for his imagination and audacity. His first novel, Welcome to Hard Times, was published in 1960 and the western fable was described by a Ney York Times book review as dramatic and taut, successfully symbolic and exciting. To support his family, E.L. Doctorow spent nine years as a book editor at NAL working with Ayn Rand and Ian Fleming among others. From 1964, he worked as editor-in-chief at Dial Press publishing work.
The Bronx native was the son of David Richard Doctorow and Rose (Levine). His father had a small music shop. After attending city public grade schools, E.L. Doctorow joined The Bronx High School of Science. He also enrolled in a journalism class for his love for writing. At Kenyon College, Ohio, he acted in theater productions and majored in philosophy. Thereafter, he completed a year of graduate work at English drama at Columbia University. He was then drafted into the United States Army and served as a corporal in the signal corps in Germany during the Allied occupation. It was when in West Germany that he married fellow Columbia University student Helen Esther Setzer. The couple has three children: Caroline, Jenny, and Richard. After his military service, Doctorow returned to Ney York and was employed as a leader for a motion picture company. He died of lung cancer in Manhattan in July 2015.
When he left publishing in 1969 to pursue a writing career, he was given a position as a visiting writer at the University of California, Irvine. It when he was here when he completed The Book of Daniel. Despite being a distinguished researcher, Doctorow has a passion to create stories based on real characters and real events. Doctorow was a lecturer at Princeton University, the University of California, Irvine, the University of Utah, the Yale School of Drama, and Sarah Lawrence College. In addition, he was the Lewis Glucksman and Loretta professor of English and American Letters at New York University as well. Doctorow donated his papers at Fales Library of New York University in 2001.
A couple of Doctorow’s books were adapted for the screen. They include Daniel, starring Timothy Hutton, Billy Bathgate, starring Dustin Hoffman, and Welcome to Hard Times, with Henry Fonda. Doctorow’s most notable adaptations were for the film, Ragtime, and the Broadway musical of the same name, which won him four Tony Awards. Among his novels that worn him honors are Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March, which all worn him National Book Critics Circle Awards. He also won the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Creative Arts, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction in addition to the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal.
His first novel, Welcome to Hard Times, is centered in a small settlement in the Dakota Territory referred to as Hard Times. For most of the novel parts, his name is not disclosed, he is simply known as Bad Man from Bodie. In Welcome To Hard Times he single-handedly vandalizes, rapes, in addition to burning the entire town. He, however, never says a word. The survivors of the Bad Man’s wrath choose to leave to look for better fortune elsewhere. But, a murdered carpenter’s son, a half burnt prostitute, a local Indian healer, and the town’s unofficial mayor, Blue chooses to stay behind. Blue stays found of the new town for a defeatist acceptance of their fortune, but not for an angry venomous determination to fight back. His life has to go on, and not in any other town, but this burned down town.
Blue, a human in all aspects, is the leader of all sorts and kind of coward. He must raise and fall in the town he exists in. He incites a level of revilement in those with whom he desires closeness and ekes out a position of modest respect. The Bad Man of Bodie as the dark force of the evil, hovers around to destroy the meager gains that Blue and his fellow settlers find.
The second novel, Big As Life, features a middle aged professor of history, Wallace Creighton, and jazz musician, Red and his girlfriend Sugarbush. The storyline begins with two enormous humanoid figures, one female and one male, appearing off the southern tip of Manhattan in one morning. They send the entire city into a panic. The government also goes into increasingly militarist mode. The post 9-11 reality, although Big As Life, can’t help, but evoke an attack on the World Trade Center and its aftermath. They eerily take place just inland from where E.L. Doctorow plants his twin towering figures. Afterwards, they proceed to just stand there, barely moving. They truly exist in in a different dimension where time is severely slowed, so it takes them months to just blink. After 9-11, all the government activity seals off the southern portion of Manhattan in the aftermath of the giants’ appearance. Also, the ordinary New Yorkers scramble among themselves to get back to their normal life. The physical reminder of the day of panic remains very prominent though.
In this book, however, Doctorow is a lot more pessimistic than post-9-11 reality turned out to be because he posits rationing, social pathologies, martial law, and economic hardships that continue for many months after the initial shock. The rampage by religious fanatics resembles ace riots with its wholesale violence, looting, and burning. In this novel, Doctorow tried to justify the point that the strange can bring out the worst in some people.
|Welcome to Hard Times||(1960)|
|Big as Life||(1966)|
|The Book of Daniel||(1971)|
|Drinks Before Dinner||(1979)|
|City of God||(2000)|
|Homer & Langley||(2009)|
Short Story Collections
|Lives of the Poets||(1984)|
|Three Screenplays: Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake||(2003)|
|Sweet Land Stories||(2004)|
|All the Time in the World||(2011)|
|Poems for Life: A Special Collection of Poetry||(2011)|
|The Best American Short Stories 2000||(2000)|
|Essays and Conversations||(1983)|
|Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution: Selected Essays, 1977-1992||(1993)|
|Poets and Presidents: Selected Essays, 1977-92||(1994)|
|Reporting the Universe||(2003)|
|Creationists: Selected Essays, 1993-2006||(2006)|