E.L. (Edgar Lawrence) Doctorow, acclaimed American writer, has passed away at the age of 84. Doctorow was born in the Bronx to immigrant parents and the New York setting and the immigrant experience were often a feature of his novel.
Noted by some as a writer of historical fiction, it might be more accurate to say the Doctorow wrote literary fiction that was fueled by and explored the last century of American history. Doctorow was known for his experimental fiction techniques – multiple narrators, unreliable narrators and placing historical characters in unlikely situations. One of his most acclaimed novels, Ragtime, featured Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung riding through a Tunnel of Love in an amusement park. At the time of its publication Kirkus wrote “Ragtime is a great billiard game of events, ideas and personages at the turn of the century, where the real protagonist is America herself captured in the last gasps of complacency and social Darwinism – waging territorial wars abroad for God, country and Mammon, breaking strikes and throwing charity balls at home while WWI hovers in the wings. After this the national identity will never be the same.”
In addition to being known for imaginative plotting, Doctorow was also known for his leftist view. In The Book of Daniel, Doctorow, while not speculating on culpability, explored the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs in 1953 through their fictionalized son a decade after their deaths. Again Kirkus described it as “a ravaging, riveting experience.”
E.L. Doctorow, winner of numerous awards including the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, published his final novel in 2014 – Andrew’s Brain. “Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is thinking, Andrew is talking, Andrew is telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves.” Discover