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Ragtime (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) by…
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Ragtime (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) (original 1975; edition 1975)

by E. L. Doctorow (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,111941,377 (3.84)333
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.
Member:scarper
Title:Ragtime (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
Authors:E. L. Doctorow (Author)
Info:Modern Library (1997), 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction, Read in 2019
Rating:***
Tags:America

Work details

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow (1975)

  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 333 mentions

English (89)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (94)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
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 |
I revisited this one after hearing of the author's death a few weeks ago. I first read it as part of a lit class in undergrad and remember loving it. At the time I had not read a lot of historical fiction and now it is probably my favorite genre. I do have to admit, though, the book bugged me a little on this second reading almost twenty years later.

The story is still brilliant and compelling, the characters are well drawn, but the story is told by a fairly distant omniscient narrative voice that makes this novel read very much like a work of nonfiction. In a way, that works because it allows Doctorow to seamlessly blend true events and historical figures with those belonging to his fictional world, to the point that the reader really has to question whether it is fiction at all. The trouble for me is that I generally read history and fiction so differently. Fiction is for getting lost in, carried away by characters and the language, whereas history is more of a slog to be enjoyed with a pencil and notebook handy.

This book didn't give me the opportunity to make that distinction because it was so tightly woven together. I'm glad I reread it, and in another twenty years, I'll reread it again, and probably feel differently still. ( )
  Sarah_Angleton | Aug 16, 2019 |
Inventive portrait of America in the early 20th Century. Through small vignettes, Ragtime tells the sometimes tragic rise in fortune of a small immigrant family, their encounters with America. These are counterbalanced by the often twisted events and sometimes downfalls of an established small town American family. Both must make peace with the upheaval of the times. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
The lush and lyrical language somehow encompasses the ironic distanced view of mortal follies and the syncopated switches in story flow disengage us from the passions of characters. Little of the interior of any character is available, though their actions are the ripples giving indications. The women are mostly described by appearance, Emma Goldman being the only one who comes forward and actively converses in close up. This is an amazing novel, and if the other women were provided with even as much as the vacancy of Younger Brother, I'd have rated it higher. ( )
  quondame | Mar 19, 2019 |
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E. L. Doctorowprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Do not play this piece fast. It is never right to play Ragtime fast ...
Scott Joplin
Dedication
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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Average: (3.84)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188170, 0143566377

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