22 July, 2015

Tribute to Edgar Lawrence (E.L.) Doctorow, Jun 6, 1931 - July 21, 2015



Edgar Lawrence (E. L.) Doctorow was a master conjuror of alternative retrospection with his unique blend of history and fiction. The result is a delectable feast of engaging stories peppered with cameo appearances of familiar historic figures, never mind their invented encounters. The appartition of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, for example, together at an amusement park must surely intrigue the amateur psychologist residing in every reader's id. This brand of history novel intoxicates the way Forrest Gump captures our attention. 

Doctorow's inventive history was sometimes criticized by purists as "playing with helpless dead puppets, and turned the historical novel into a gravity-free, faintly sadistic game". But even John Updike conceded that, when done right, at least in Updike's preferred style, Doctorow was "a visionary who seeks in time past occasions for poetry".

Doctorow's literary prominence began with the publication of "Ragtime" (I don't have a first edition of this title but immediately rectified this oversight with an order this morning) that won him the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1975, one he would win twice more in 1989 and 2005 respectively with "Billy Bathgate" and "A March". The latter, a Civil War fiction generally considered Doctorow's best work, was also finalists for the 2006 Pulitzer, and the 2005 National Book Award that Doctorow won in 1986 with "World's Fair". Doctorow was alos bestowed the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal and the Library of Congress Prize from American Fiction, thus assuring his place in modern American fiction with the likes of Faulkner, Bellow, Morrison and Roth.

Goodbye, the literary time traveller, and thanks for the ride.




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