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Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a…

Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella (1984)

by E. L. Doctorow

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The collection includes six short stories and a novella. The first four stories were decent, but not great. Some of them just needed more time to develop everything. I wasn’t impressed with the last two stories. They were just too postmodern for my taste.

The novella, also called Lives of the Poets, was an 80 page stream of consciousness rambling narrated by a writer, that mostly consisted of his thoughts about his friends’ failed and failing relationships. It was hard to read because everything ran together without a real plot. I actually found I liked it more when I was reading for a few minutes at a time during television commercials. When I was just reading with no breaks, I couldn’t concentrate on the text.

I do have to give Doctorow credit for using the word “flooping,” a word I thought my family had made up to describe our dog’s movements in the park. My dad and I both about died laughing over this sentence because it’s so silly and because we were so surprised that anyone else used that word: “The simplest thing, which corner to turn two blocks from home, can leave you as eerily as a hundred fifty thousand gray bats flooping out of Hubbard’s Cave.” I actually just gave him an extra star on this book for that. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
I'm not sure if this was a hit-and-miss collection of stories so much as maybe a constant "bump." There's no arguing Doctorow is talented and can turn a phrase, but I was reading these stories because I kept thinking there would be just a little bit more to the characters . . . just a little bit more to make it a good read rather than an okay read. By the time I closed the book, I think I was left with an okay read.

Thinking about it more, I feel like his writing is similar to Nadine Gordimer's. I can't put my finger on why though.

I'd give Doctorow another shot, maybe his characters are better in other books. ( )
  Sean191 | Sep 22, 2010 |
Could not get into several of the stories. ( )
  Poemblaze | Aug 7, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Doctorow, E. L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Toorn, Willem vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In 1955 my father died with his ancient mother still alive in a nursing home.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
1. The writer in the family. - 
2. The water works. - 
3. The hunter. - 
4. The foreign legation. - 
5. The leather man. - 
6. Lives of the poets.
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A young boy is asked to maintain the fiction that his father is alive. A young woman is shot at by a hunter. A schoolgirl dies in an exploding car. In Lives of the Poets, six tense, poignant, and mysterious stories are followed by a novella in which the writer emerges from his work to reveal his own mind. Here the images and the themes of the earlier stories become part of the narrator's unsparing confessions about his own life. Separated from his own family, he chronicles the edgy urban landscape around him, discusses marriages that fail but continue to entangle spouses, the influence of wives and other women, and the obsessions that haunt him. And in this brilliant, funny, and painful story about the story, the writer's mind in all its aspects--its formal compositions, its naked secrets--emerges as a rare look at the creative process and its connection to the heart.An astonishing work, Lives of the Poets varies from realistic to dreamlike to become a virtuoso performance by E. L. Doctorow, deftly done by an author in total control of his craft, aware both of the enormity of his talent...and the price it exacts.… (more)

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