Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow - An Overview

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E.L. Doctorow is widely regarded as one of America's pre-eminent novelists of the 20th Century. He was born on January 6, 1931, in Bronx, New York. Doctorow was named after the great poet and short story writer Edgar Allen Poe, who had also lived in the Bronx. His mother, Rose (Levine) Doctorow, was an accomplished pianist. His father, David Richard Doctorow, owned a music shop. When his business was wiped out during the Depression, he sold home appliances to support the family. Doctorow's household was filled with literary, intellectual, and political discussion. He would later characterize his childhood milieu as "a lower middle-class environment of generally enlightened socialist sensibility." Both Doctorow and his older brother had aspirations of being novelists. "I always knew that writing was my calling," Doctorow told Time magazine. For a long time, however, he would resist this impulse, on the advice of friends and family. "People told me to look for physical labor and under no circumstances to get involved with the book business in Manhattan." After earning his undergraduate degree with honors in 1952, Doctorow moved on to graduate study in English drama at New York's Columbia University in the autumn of 1952. Here he was introduced to the work of the German Romantic playwright Heinrich Von Kleist, whose writing had a profound effect on the young student. Doctorow later modeled the protagonist of his most famous novel, Ragtime on the hero of one of Kleist's novels. Although he had written books for years, it was not until the publication of The Book of Daniel in 1971 that he obtained acclaim. His next book, Ragtime, was a commercial and critical success. Doctorow uses historical and quasi-historical figures, situations, and settings. Previous to Ragtime, he dealt not only with history itself, but with perception of reality and its interpretation as well

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