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Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime (original 1975; edition 2007)

by E.L. Doctorow (Author)

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3,911None1,309 (3.85)195
Authors:E.L. Doctorow (Author)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2007), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:Fiction, historical, 20th c., America, New York, pre-WWI

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Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow (1975)

1001 (35) 1001 books (32) 1900s (16) 20th century (85) America (35) American (81) American fiction (20) American History (21) American literature (84) classic (31) classics (19) E.L. Doctorow (13) fiction (691) historical (43) historical fiction (236) history (22) Houdini (18) literature (71) New York (76) New York City (51) novel (133) own (31) paperback (16) race (17) race relations (19) read (52) Roman (14) to-read (63) unread (46) USA (42)
  1. 00
    Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Doctorow called his book "a quite deliberate hommage" (sic) to Kleist's story.
  2. 01
    The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld (Booksloth)

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English (51)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
VERY interesting book! The storyline is engaging, the action moves along nicely, we meet interesting people along the way, including Harry Houdini, JP Morgan, etc. The narrator never names the family, he calls them Father, Mother, Younger Brother(brother to Mother), & Son. I found that a little odd, but it made it more interesting trying to figure out exactly WHO they were supposed to be, & there were clues given. Father was on Admiral Peary's final voyage to discover the North Pole, Younger brother became a revolutionary & was finally killed in Mexico, & it's not said what happened to the Son. My first exposure to Doctorow's works, & because I enjoyed this one, I am definitely going to go back for something else he's written. ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
I was motivated to read this book by the remarks of Frederic Jameson: "the depoliticization of the workers' movement is attributable to the media or culture generally...'new aesthetic forms.' This is...the elegeaic backdrop, if not the meaning, of RAGTIME..."

The book proved more fascinating to me than I anticipated after that rather abstract endorsement! Jameson points out stylistic methods that Doctorow favors, such as the predominant use of "simple declarative sentences...mobilized by the verb 'to be.'" (I might've said "immobilized," but oh well!)

I assume this method is intended to make a dynamic, action-packed story appear timeless; its results eternal and inevitable, as products of a powerful socio-cultural process that individual desire can scarcely resist. A unique sense of character is generated by calling central figures simply Mother, Father, Younger Brother, and so on. The narrator presents many characters' feelings and foibles without justification or extensive introspective intrusion, which I found created a sense of objective forces framing people and events.

Famously, several historical personages figure as characters in this book. One of my many favorite lines is this, in the mouth of Emma Goldman: "Who can say who are the instrumentalities and who are the people. Which of us causes and lives in others to cause, and which of us is meant thereby to live."

An unusual, highly thought-provoking book that I found surprisingly moving. ( )
  AnesaMiller | Feb 23, 2014 |
An interesting novel which looks at racism, socialism, anarchy and rebellion in the early 20th century in America. Quite good but not as good as Gatsby. ( )
  jerhogan | Feb 10, 2014 |
"Father, normally a resolute person, suddenly foundered in his soul. A weird despair seized him. The wind came up, the sky had turned overcast, and the great ocean began to tumble and break upon itself as if made of slabs of granite and sliding terraces of slate."

Ragtime is rather a mix of people and situations and stories, that wind intricately together and apart to form something that is "full of [...] subtle pleasure," as the back blurb says. It's an odd disparate mix of folks—poor tenement families and bourgeois and shockingly rich, immigrants and settled Americans and former slaves, blacks and whites and, socialists and conservatives and communists—and how their paths cross and lives intermingle. With this eclectic cast of characters, all walks of life are explored to some extent. Each has at least a couple chapters here and there, and each is portrayed with a poignant depth. It's rather amazing how many exceptionally different people Doctorow manages to fit in, without making the story seem at all contrived.

"This was a most robust composition, a vigorous music that roused the senses and never stood still a moment. The boy perceived it as light touching various places in space, accumulating in intricate patterns until the entire room was made to glow with its own being."

The way it was written puts me in mind of Gore Vidal's Creation, with the insertion of historical characters into realistic settings of a fiction novel. It's really hard to explain much of the book without giving things away, though; plus the back blurb on my copy merely says when it's set, that the lives of some families become entwined, lists some names that make appearances, and then says it's so original and full of imagination and pleasure that to describe it further would dilute the joy of reading it, and that "nothing quite like it has ever been written before." So I'm going to heed their advice and stop trying to figure out what I can write about it. I will simply say it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

"They would never let me out of here, you know that. And if they did they would spare no effort to hunt me down. And everyone with me would be hunted down. And you would all die. To what purpose? For what end?" ( )
3 vote PolymathicMonkey | Jan 26, 2014 |
Doctorow's hypnotic and compelling narrative of pieces of the first two decades of the 20th century, the world of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, of anarchists and negro revolution and the early days of psychoanalysis. There is a lot going on here in a very few pages, and it is quite amazing how Doctorow pieces together a world in which Harry Houdini and Sigmund Freud are connected by surprisingly few strands. ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Dec 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. L. Doctorowprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Do not play this piece fast. It is never right to play Ragtime fast ...
Scott Joplin
The author thanks the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Creative Artists Program Service for fellowships awarded during the period in which this novel was written
Respectfully dedicated to Rose Doctorow Buck
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In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812978188, Paperback)

Published in 1975, 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.

The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch-bearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:29 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Three remarkable families lives' become entwined with Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Theodore Dreiser, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata at the turn of the century.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188170, 0143566377

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