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Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime (1975)

by E. L. Doctorow

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,278971,376 (3.84)341
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.… (more)
  1. 00
    American Pastoral by Philip Roth (charlie68)
    charlie68: Similar themes on the American ideal.
  2. 00
    Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Doctorow called his book "a quite deliberate hommage" (sic) to Kleist's story.
  3. 01
    The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld (Booksloth)

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» See also 341 mentions

English (92)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (97)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
3.75. Great to read if you love the musical. ( )
  Fortunesdearest | Apr 10, 2020 |
Americana at its best. The modern writing style and treatment of characters is very anachronistic to the actual time when it's set; which I liked.
The writing has a dreamlike, staccato nature to it, which makes you read it unlike regular fiction.
It was educational to read about this time in American history I didn't know much about. ( )
  raheelahmad | Mar 22, 2020 |
Best book I've read in 4 years. ( )
  kvschnitzer | Dec 8, 2019 |
maybe 1.25 stars. it took me a while to see the value in this, and while i did by the end, i still didn't really like it. i thought that in general the writing wasn't at all good, the characters weren't at all fleshed out, there was necessary (or at least helpful) information left out all over the place, and i never really cared about anyone.

i mean, maybe part of that is intentional - the white american family never is even named (we are just given their role in the family: "Mother, Father, Younger Brother," etc), which shows how typical and uninteresting they are - they are every white family of that class in that time. and he succeeded in my not caring about them at all and not being at all interested in what happened with them or to them. the immigrant jewish family was also not interesting to me, but i think that was more because the space given them was disproportionately low, and by the time i had any interest in their story, they were gone. the only story i had an interest in whatsoever was that of coalhouse walker, the black man who refused to accept the injustice meted out by the people and the time. though it wasn't coalhouse himself i was interested in, but his cause, and i would have appreciated more of the discussion between his view and booker t washington's, but we didn't get much of that. then again, it's all, in the end, a white man's view of the time and that argument. (maybe that's part of what is missing for me about this book - i do feel white people need to evaluate their privilege and issues of race, but it's less valuable to me to read it done this way. i'd rather hear from people of color when talking about race. but again, i don't want to discourage white people from exploring it all.)

this felt like a book about an issue (race relations) all muddled up with name dropping and an attempt to put as many historical figures as possible randomly together in a book. (there were: jp morgan, evelyn nesbit, henry ford, emma goldman, harry houdini, sigmund freud, and others. for - what seemed to me - no reason.) they added nothing and frankly got in the way of the story it seemed he was trying to tell. this was all over the place for me, and more annoying than anything else, unfortunately.

a passage that shows he can really write, and that i wish there were more examples of: "The cars jumped under his feet. The moon raced with the train. He held his face up to the sky between the cars, as if even moonlight could warm him." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Oct 6, 2019 |
Brilliant stylistically: great remote narration, indirect speech, long paragraphs, but very short and direct sentences. The first half of the book is all about sex. The second half is about vengence. You cannot remove the Coalhouse Walker narrative from the context of the 1960s and 1970s: it gains much more meaning from recognizing that context. I read this at the same time that I was reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman, and there was a lot of intersection. ( )
  AmyMacEvilly | Sep 2, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. L. Doctorowprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Important places
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Awards and honors
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
First words
In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

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Average: (3.84)
0.5 3
1 12
1.5 7
2 66
2.5 16
3 231
3.5 84
4 447
4.5 61
5 271

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188170, 0143566377

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