An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War.
The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.
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"[A] beautifully realized complex of social epiphanies, all watched over by the spirit of Scott Joplin." - Kirkus Reviews.
"Ragtime is as exhilarating as a deep breath of pure oxygen... At times, the swift, short sentences suggest the pristine flicker of silent film; at others, the sharp angles and sardonic deployment of detail in Citizen Kane ... The grace and surface vivacity of Ragtime make it enormous fun to read. But beneath its peppy, bracing rhythms sound the neat, sad waltz of Gatsby and the tunes of betrayed promise. History resonates with special clarity here. Doctorow has found a fresh way to orchestrate the themes of American innocence, energy, and inchoate ambition." - Newsweek.
"...(It) is in this excellent novel, whose silhouettes and rags not only make fiction out of history but also reveal the fictions out of which history is made. It incorporates the fictions and realities of the era of ragtime while it rags our fictions about it. It is an anti-nostalgic novel that incorporates our nostalgia about its subject. It is cool, hard, controlled, utterly unsentimental, an art of sharp outlines and clipped phrases. yet it implies all we could ask for in the way of texture, mood, character and despair." - Books of the Century, The New York Times, July 1975.
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Named for Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow occupies a central
position in the history of American literature. On a shortlist that might also
include Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, John Updike, Saul Bellow, and Don DeLillo,
E. L. Doctorow is generally considered to be among the most talented, ambitious,
and admired novelists of the second half of the twentieth century. Long
celebrated for his vivid evocations of nineteenth- and twentieth-century
American life (particularly New York life), Doctorow has received the National
Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the
Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howell Medal of the
American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National
E.L. Doctorow: DAHK-tuh-row (emphasis on the first syllable. Russian for 'son of a doctor')
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