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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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392446,922 (3.16)4
At the peak of his literary fame and fortune, Jonathan walks out on his wife, moves into a Manhattan loft, and goes back through his life, reinventing his world through his writer's imagination.



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Like all Doctorow's books I enjoyed it as he gives us so much to think about and there is simply some very brilliant writing; for that matter there are a couple of paragraphs that are some of the best written I have ever read. That being said, the reason for my rating is this is one those Doctorow books that is so frustrating in, what I have to call, experimental writing. Some flows some elevates the reader some forces you to think and reread sections to be able to get your mind around it. Finally there is a certain unevenness about it that spoils the beauty you find. It is distracting and to me spoils the reading experience. Maybe my problem is I am reading his books in the reverse order they were written

In many ways it feels almost like the precursor to City of God and leaves me feeling not quite satisfied but not disappointed. No matter what, Doctorow is a true author: not a writer, not a story-teller, but one of the best authors of his time. To me, author and is the highest praise that can be given to any writer and Doctorow's death was a loss to all of us who relish a good book. ( )
  can44okie | Aug 28, 2020 |
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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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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First words
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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At the peak of his literary fame and fortune, Jonathan walks out on his wife, moves into a Manhattan loft, and goes back through his life, reinventing his world through his writer's imagination.

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