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Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

By Plume (publisher)

Published in 1975 (made into a movie in 1981), Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. 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 truely inspiring book although one could suppose that dotarow's use of narrator monologue could be seen as an added element of confusion to an already deeper than face value novel. The created dismissal of reality vs. fiction also raises the question that is history actually a fictional account of an event as seen by a person of the era? I loved the book, and its title shows well the nature of the novel. High staccado with a constant undertone, creating a dynamic setting for all to grasp."


"Isn't Coalhouse Walker based on Michael Kahlhauss by Heinrich von Kleist? It was written in the early 1800's I think, and it documents a revenge-obsessed German of the 16th century whose actions are mitigated by Martin Luther. Does anybody else think this, and has EL Doctorow ever spoken about it?"

--Kenyon Alumninary



Author: E.L. Doctorow

Released: 1975

Awards: Paperback, hardback, audio cassette


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