E. L. Doctorow
E. L. Doctorow
Doctorow in 2014
|Born||January 6, 1931|
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 21, 2015 (aged 84)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Writer, editor, professor|
|Alma mater||Kenyon College, Columbia University|
|Notable works||The Book of Daniel|
Homer & Langley
|Spouse||Helen Esther Setzer (m. 1953–2015; his death)|
Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (January 6, 1931 – July 21, 2015) was an American novelist, editor, and professor, best known internationally for his works of historical fiction.
He wrote twelve novels, three volumes of short fiction and a stage drama. They included the award-winning novels Ragtime (1975), Billy Bathgate (1989), and The March (2005). These, like many of his other works, placed fictional characters in recognizable historical contexts, with known historical figures, and often used different narrative styles. His stories were recognized for their originality and versatility, and Doctorow was praised for his audacity and imagination.
A number of Doctorow's novels and short stories were also adapted for the screen, including Welcome to Hard Times (1967) starring Henry Fonda, Daniel (1983) starring Timothy Hutton, Billy Bathgate (1991) starring Dustin Hoffman, and Wakefield (2016) starring Bryan Cranston. His most notable adaptations were for the film Ragtime (1981) and the Broadway musical of the same name (1998), which won four Tony Awards.
Doctorow was the recipient of numerous writing awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Ragtime, National Book Critics Circle Award for Billy Bathgate, National Book Critics Circle Award for The March, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction. Former President Barack Obama called him "one of America's greatest novelists".
Doctorow was born January 6, 1931, in the Bronx, the son of Rose (Levine) and David Richard Doctorow, second-generation Americans of Russian Jewish extraction who named him after Edgar Allan Poe. His father ran a small music shop. He attended city public grade schools and the Bronx High School of Science where, surrounded by mathematically gifted children, he fled to the office of the school literary magazine, Dynamo, which published his first literary effort. He then enrolled in a journalism class to increase his opportunities to write.
Doctorow attended Kenyon College in Ohio, where he studied with John Crowe Ransom, acted in college theater productions and majored in philosophy. While at Kenyon College, Doctorow joined the Middle Kenyon Association, and befriended Richard H. Collin. After graduating with honors in 1952, he completed a year of graduate work in English drama at Columbia University before being drafted into the United States Army. In 1954 and 1955, he served as a corporal in the signal corps in West Germany.
Back in New York after military service, Doctorow worked as a reader for a motion picture company; reading so many Westerns inspired his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times. Begun as a parody of western fiction, it evolved into a reclamation of the genre. It was published to positive reviews in 1960, with Wirt Williams of the New York Times describing it as "taut and dramatic, exciting and successfully symbolic."
When asked how he decided to become a writer, he said, "I was a child who read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I asked of a story not only what was to happen next, but how is this done? How am I made to live from words on a page? And so I became a writer."
To support his family, Doctorow spent nine years as a book editor, first at New American Library working with Ian Fleming and Ayn Rand among others; and from 1964, as editor-in-chief at Dial Press, publishing work by James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Ernest J. Gaines, and William Kennedy, among others.
In 1969, Doctorow left publishing to pursue a writing career. He accepted a position as Visiting Writer at the University of California, Irvine, where he completed The Book of Daniel (1971), a freely fictionalized consideration of the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was widely acclaimed, called a "masterpiece" by The Guardian, and said by The New York Times to launch the author into "the first rank of American writers" according to Christopher Lehmann-Haupt.
Doctorow's next book, written in his home in New Rochelle, New York, was Ragtime (1975), later named one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library editorial board. His subsequent work includes the award-winning novels World's Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1989), and The March (2005), as well as several volumes of essays and short fiction.
Novelist Jay Parini is impressed by Doctorow's skill at writing fictionalized history in a unique style, "a kind of detached but arresting presentation of history that mingled real characters with fictional ones in ways that became his signature manner". In Ragtime, for example, he arranges the story to include Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung sharing a ride at Coney Island, or a setting with Henry Ford and J. P. Morgan.
Despite the immense research Doctorow needed to create stories based on real events and real characters, reviewer John Brooks notes that they were nevertheless "alive enough never to smell the research in old newspaper files that they must have required". Doctorow demonstrated in most of his novels "that the past is very much alive, but that it's not easily accessed," writes Parini. "We tell and retell stories, and these stories illuminate our daily lives. He showed us again and again that our past is our present, and that those not willing to grapple with 'what happened' will be condemned to repeat its worst errors."
Personal life and death
Doctorow also taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Yale School of Drama, the University of Utah, the University of California, Irvine, and Princeton University. He was the Loretta and Lewis Glucksman Professor of English and American Letters at New York University. In 2001 he donated his papers to the Fales Library of New York University. In the opinion of the library's director, Marvin Taylor, Doctorow was "one of the most important American novelists of the 20th century".
Awards and honors
- 1975: National Book Critics Circle Award for Ragtime
- 1986: National Book Award for World's Fair
- 1988: Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement
- 1989: Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction
- 1989 MacDowell Colony Fellowship
- 1990: National Book Critics Circle Award for Billy Bathgate
- 1990: PEN/Faulkner Award for Billy Bathgate
- 1990: William Dean Howells Medal for Billy Bathgate
- 1998: National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities
- 1998: Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award from the Tulsa Library Trust
- 1999 awarded the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature award, which is given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in American literature. As part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival, the day-long festival takes place in Rockville, Maryland, the city where Fitzgerald, his wife, and his daughter are buried.
- 2002: First recipient of the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement
- 2005: National Book Critics Circle Award for The March
- 2006: PEN/Faulkner Award for The March
- 2008: St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates
- 2012: Inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame
- 2012: PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction
- 2013: Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation
- 2013: American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction
- 2014: Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction
- 1960: Welcome to Hard Times – adapted as the 1967 film Welcome to Hard Times
- 1966: Big As Life
- 1971: The Book of Daniel – historical fiction about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – adapted as the 1983 film Daniel
- 1975: Ragtime – adapted as the 1981 film Ragtime and the 1998 Broadway musical Ragtime
- 1980: Loon Lake
- 1985: World's Fair
- 1989: Billy Bathgate – adapted as the 1991 film Billy Bathgate
- 1994: The Waterworks
- 2000: City of God
- 2005: The March
- 2009: Homer & Langley
- 2014: Andrew's Brain
Short story collections
- 1984: Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella
- 2004: Sweet Land Stories – The New York Times Notable Book
- 2011: All the Time in the World: New And Selected Stories
- 2015 "Cuentos Completos" (Complete Short Stories) Malpaso Editorial-Only in Spanish. Preface by Eduardo Lago.
- 1978: Drinks Before Dinner
- 1982: American Anthem (photographic essay)
- 1993: Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution (essay collection, published in the UK as Poets and Presidents)
- 2003: Reporting the Universe, Harvard University Press
- 2004: How Then Can He Mourn?, essay criticizing George W. Bush for his pre-emptive war on Iraq.
- 2006: Creationists (essay collection)
- 2008: "Wakefield" (short story), The New Yorker, January 14, 2008
- 2012: "Unexceptionalism: A Primer" (op-ed), The New York Times, April 28, 2012
- "E. L. Doctorow Dies at 84; Literary Time Traveler Stirred Past Into Fiction", The New York Times, July 21, 2015
- "US novelist EL Doctorow dies at 84", BBC, July 22, 2015
- "UPI Almanac for Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019". United Press International. January 6, 2019. Archived from the original on September 11, 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
author E.L. Doctorow in 1931
- Wutz, Michael. "The E.L. Doctorow I Remember", Newsweek, July 22, 2015
- Intersections: E.L. Doctorow on Rhythm and Writing, June 28, 2004.
- American Conversation: E. L. Doctorow, September 25, 2008.
- "Literary giant". Kenyon News. Gambier, OH: Kenyon College. July 22, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- "A group of Middle Kenyon (non-fraternal) residents in 1952. Included are Roger Hecht '55, Richard H. Collin '54, E.L. Doctorow '52, William T. Goldhurst '53, Martin Nemer '52, Harvey Robbin III '52, and Stanford B. Benjamin '53". Kenyon News. Gambier, OH: Kenyon College. July 22, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- "Beloved Historical Fiction Author E.L. Doctorow Dead At 84", Huffington Post, July 21, 2015
- "E.L. Doctorow, acclaimed author of historical fiction, dies at 84", PBS, July 21, 2015
- "Interview: E.L. Doctorow discusses the art of writing and his new book of essays, Reporting the Universe". Talk of the Nation. NPR. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Williams, Wirt. "'Welcome to Hard Times'", New York Times, September 25, 1960
- "EL Doctorow, author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, dies in New York aged 84", The Guardian, U.K., July 22, 2015
- "E.L. Doctorow’s Longtime Editor: 'No One Could Possibly Say a Bad Word About Him'", Vanity Fair, July 22, 2015
- "E L Doctorow, author – obituary". The Telegraph. July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Homberger, Eric (July 22, 2015). "EL Doctorow obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Jones, Malcolm (July 21, 2015). "E.L. Doctorow's Readers Were Guaranteed a Good Time". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
- Robinson, Will (July 21, 2015). "E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime author, dies at 84". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
- Review of 'The Book of Daniel', The New York Times, June 7, 1971.
- "Modern Library: 100 Best Novels". Random House. Retrieved September 5, 2008.
- "E.L. Doctorow's gift", CNN, July 22, 2015
- Contemporary Jewish-American Novelists: A Bio-critical Sourcebook (1997) by Joel Shatzky and Michael Taub, pp. 54
- Woo, Elaine (July 21, 2015). "E.L. Doctorow dies at 84; 'Ragtime' author turned history into myth". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "From Ragtime to Our Time E.L. Doctorow Donates His Papers to NYU’S Fales Library", New York University, April 19, 2001
- Weber, Bruce (July 21, 2015). "E.L. Doctorow, Author of Historical Fiction, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- Ragtime wins the National Book Critics Circle Award. History Channel. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "National Book Awards – 1986". NBF. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- "New York State Author and State Poet Awards". Albany University.
- "E.L. Doctorow - Artist". MacDowell.
- Johnson, M. Alex (July 21, 2015). "E.L. Doctorow, Acclaimed Author of 'Ragtime' and 'Billy Bathgate,' Dies at 84". NBC News. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "Doctorow's 'Bathgate' Wins Faulkner Award". The New York Times. April 7, 1990. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- The William Dean Howells Medal Archived March 14, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "Winners of the National Humanities Medal and the Charles Frankel Prize". National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2008.
- "National Humanities Medal: Nominations", NEH.gov. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- E.L. Doctorow. Tulsa Library Trust's Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "Kenyon Review for Literary Achievement". Kenyon Review.
- "Beloved Historical Fiction Author E.L. Doctorow Dead At 84". The Huffington Post. July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- Thompson, Bob (February 21, 2006). "Doctorow's 'The March' Wins Top Honor". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "Saint Louis Literary Award". SLU.edu. Saint Louis University.
- Saint Louis University Library Associates. "Noted Novelist E. L. Doctorow to be Honored as 41st Annual Saint Louis Literary Award Recipient". Archived from the original on September 20, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
- 2012 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. PEN American Center. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- James McBride wins US National Book Award, BBC News, November 21, 2013
- Gold Medal Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Alison Flood. "E.L. Doctorow wins Library of Congress prize for American fiction", The Guardian, April 17, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
- Robertson, Michael (1992). "Cultural Hegemony Goes to the Fair: The Case of E. L. Doctorow's World's Fair". University of Kansas. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Scott, A. O. (March 5, 2000). "A Thinking Man's Miracle". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Kaufman, Leslie (March 28, 2013). "A New Doctorow Novel". The New York Times.
- Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (November 6, 1984). "Lives of the Poets". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Eder, Richard (November 24, 1978). "Stage: Doctorow's 'Drinks Before Dinner'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Conversations with E.L. Doctorow (1999) by E.L. Doctorow and Christopher D. Morris, chronology
- "'Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution'", The New York Times, November 4, 1993
- Doctorow, E. L. (September 9, 2004). "How Then Can He Mourn?".
- Powers, Ron (September 24, 2006). "Text Messages". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Arana-Ward, Marie (April 17, 1994). "E. L. Doctorow". Washington Post. p. X6.
- Baba, Minako (Summer 1993). "The Young Gangster as Mythic American Hero: E.L.Doctorow's Billy Bathgate". Varieties of Ethnic Criticism. Oxford University Press: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS). 18 (2): 33–46. doi:10.2307/467932. JSTOR 467932.
- Bloom, Harold, ed. (2001). E.L. Doctorow. Chelsea House. ISBN 978-0791064511.
- E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations. Chelsea House. 2001. ISBN 978-0791063439.
- Fowler, Douglas (1992). Understanding E.L. Doctorow. University of South Carolina.
- Girgus, Sam B. (1984). The New Covenant: Jewish Writers and the American Idea. University of North Carolina Press.
- Harter, Carol C.; Thompson, James R. (1996). E.L.Doctorow. Gale Group.
- Henry, Matthew A. Problematized Narratives: History as Friction in E.L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate. Critique Magazine.
- Jameson, Frederic. (1991). Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke University Press.
- Leonard, John (June 10, 2004). The Prophet. The New York Review of Books.
- Levine, Paul (1985). E.L. Doctorow. New York: Methuen.
- Matterson, Stephen. "Why Not Say What Happened: E.L. Doctorow's Lives of the Poets". Critique.
- McGowan, Todd (2001). "In This Way He Lost Everything: The Price of Satisfaction in E.L. Doctorow's 'World's Fair'". Critique. 42.
- Miller, Ann V. "Through a Glass Clearly: Vision as Structure in E.L. Doctorow's Willi". Studies in Short Fiction.
- Morgenstern, Naomi (2003). "The Primal Scene in the Public Domain: E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel". Studies in the Novel. 35.
- Morris, Christopher D. (1999). Conversations with E.L. Doctorow. University of Mississippi Press.
- Morris, Christopher D. (1991). Models of Misrepresentation: On the Fiction of E.L. Doctorow. University of Mississippi Press.
- Porsche, Michael. (1991). Der Meta-Western: Studien zu E.L. Doctorow, Thomas Berger und Larry McMurtry (Arbeiten zur Amerikanistik). Verlag Die Blaue Eule.
- Pospisil, Tomas (1998). The Progressive Era in American Historical Fiction: John Dos Passos' 'The 42nd Parallel and E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. Brno: Masarykova univerzita.
- Ramsey, Joseph G. (July 28, 2015). "The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left". CounterPunch.
- Rasmussen, Eric Dean (2011). "E. L. Doctorow's Vicious Eroticism: Dangerous Affect in The Book of Daniel". Symplokē. 18 (1–2): 190–219.
- Shaw, Patrick W. (2000). The Modern American Novel of Violence. Whiston Press.
- Siegel, Ben (2000). Critical Essays on E.L. Doctorow. G.K. Hall & Company.
- Tokarczyk, Michelle M. (1988). E.L. Doctorow: An Annotated Bibliography. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities.
- Tokarczyk, Michelle M. (2000). E.L. Doctorow's Skeptical Commitment. Peter Lang.
- Trenner, Richard. (1983). E.L. Doctorow: Essays and Conversations. Ontario Review Press.
- Williams, John. (1996). Fiction as False Document: The Reception of E.L. Doctorow In the Post Modern Age. Camden House.
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- Official website
- E. L. Doctorow on IMDb
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- "Guide to the E.L. Doctorow Papers". Fales Library and Special Collections: NYU. 1931–2002. Archived from the original on November 20, 2009.
- Plimpton, George (Winter 1986). "E.L. Doctorow, The Art of Fiction". The Paris Review. 94.
- "Billy Bathgate Discussion with EL Doctorow". Gotham Gazette. November 30, 2004. Archived from the original on December 16, 2005.
- Rafferty, Terrence (January 12, 2014). "Andrew's Brain". NY Times.
- Been, Eric Allen (January 17, 2014). "Andrew's Brain". Chicago Tribune.
- Cooper, David. "Andrew's Brain". NY Journal of Books. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- McAlpin, Heller (January 17, 2014), "You might need to be a scientist to understand Andrew's Brain", Books, NPR
- KCRW Bookworm Interviews, audio, with Michael Silverblatt:
Oct 1994, Jul 1997, May 2000, Jul 2004, Aug 2009