Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (born January 6, 1931, New York, New York) is an American author whose critically acclaimed and award winning fiction ranges through his country’s social history from the Civil War to the present.
Edgar Lawrence Doctorow was born the Borough
of the Bronx
, New York City
, the son of second generation Americans of Russian Jewish
descent. He attended the city’s grade schools and then the Bronx High School of Science
where, surrounded by mathematically gifted
children, he fled to the office of the school literary magazine, Dynamo
, where he published his first literary effort, The Beetle
, which he describes as ”a tale of etymological self-defamation inspired by my reading of Kafka
Doctorow attended Kenyon College, where he studied with the poet and New Critic, John Crowe Ransom, acted in college theater productions and majored in Philosophy. After graduating with Honors in 1952 he did a year of graduate work in English Drama at Columbia University before being drafted into the army. He served with the Army of Occupation in Germany in 1954-55 as a corporal in the signal corps.
He returned to New York after his military service, he took a job as a reader for a motion picture company, where, he said he had to read so many Westerns that he was inspired to write his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times, a work he intended as a parody but that asserted itself as a serious reclamation of the genre before he was through. It was published to positive reviews in 1960.
Doctorow had married a fellow Columbia drama student, Helen Setzer while in Germany and by the time he had moved on from his reader’s job to become in 1960, an editor at the New American Library, (NAL) a mass market paperback publisher, he was the father of three children. To support his family he would spend nine years as a book editor, first at NAL working with such authors as Ian Fleming, and Ayn Rand, and then, in 1964 as Editor- in- chief at The Dial Press, publishing work by James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Ernest J. Gaines and William Kennedy, among others.
In 1969 Doctorow left publishing in order to write and accepted a position as Visiting Writer at the University of California, Irvine, where he completed The Book of Daniel, a freely fictionalized consideration of the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for allegedly giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Published in 1971 it was widely acclaimed, called a “masterpiece” by The Guardian, and launched Doctorow into” the first rank of American writers” according to the New York Times.
Doctorow’s next book, written in his home in New Rochelle, New York, was Ragtime (1975), since accounted one of the hundred best novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library Editorial Board.
Doctorow’s subsequent work includes the award winning novels World's Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1989), and The March (2005), two volumes of short fiction, Lives of the Poets I (1984), and Sweetland Stories (2004), and two volumes of Selected Essays, Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution (1993), and Creationists (2006). He is published in over thirty languages.
He has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Yale School of Drama, the University of Utah, and Princeton University. He is currently Loretta and Lewis Glucksman Professor of English and American Letters at New York University.
Doctorow has donated his papers to the Fales Library of New York University. He is the recipient of the National Humanities Medal conferred at the White House in 1998.
- (1960) Welcome to Hard Times
- (1966) Big As Life
- (1968) The Songs of Billy Bathgate. Short story; chronicling the career of a folk-rock musician, the tale is told in the form of liner notes. Doctorow would later recycle the protagonists' name for his PEN/Faulkner award-winning novel Billy Bathgate. In an interview published in a compendium of critical analysis of his work, Doctorow claimed that he'd been questioned as to whether or not the protagonist of "Songs" was the son of the protagonist from Billy Bathgate, since the dates of birth given for the protagonists's son in Billy Bathgate correlate to the age of the protagonist from "Songs." Doctorow states that, while he had not intended it as such, he has no objection to the character being viewed as one and the same. This short story is also mentioned in the song "Sad, Sad, Sad (and Far Away from Home)" by Peter Mulvey.
- (1971) The Book of Daniel. Nominated for a National Book Award, it fictionalized the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for allegedly giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.
- (1975) Ragtime Received the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and the Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, it was adapted for film in 1981 and for the musical theater in 1998.
- (1979) Drinks Before Dinner (play)
- (1980) Loon Lake (novel). Nominated for National Book Award for Fiction in Paperback.
- (1982) American Anthem (A photographic essay).
- (1984) Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella
- (1985) World's Fair. Received the 1986 National Book Award.
- (1989) Billy Bathgate. Won the PEN Faulkner Award, The National Book Critics Cricle Award, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and received the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the best novel over a five year period.
- (1994) The Waterworks
- (2000) City of God
- (2003) Reporting the Universe, Harvard University Press.
- (2004) Sweet Land Stories. A New York Times Notable Book.
- (2005) The March, ISBN 0-375-50671-3 Awarded the National Book Critics' Circle award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner award. Also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and nominated for the National Book Award.
- (2006) Creationists: Selected Essays 1993-2006 (Random House, 178 pages)
- (2008) Wakefield (short story) New Yorker 14 Jan. 2008
- Arana-Ward, Marie. (April 17, 1994). "E. L. Doctorow". The Washington Post, p. X6.
- E.L. Doctorow by Paul Levine, New York: Methuen, 1985.
- Models of Misrepresentation: On the Fiction of E.L. Doctorow by Christopher D. Morris, University of Mississippi Press, 1991.
- E.L. Doctorow’s Skeptical Commitment by Michelle M. Tokarczyk, Peter Lang, 2000.
- Conversations with E.L. Doctorow by Christopher D.Morris, University of Mississippi Press, 1999.
- Understanding E.L. Doctorow by Douglas Fowler, University of South Carolina, 1992.
- E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime by Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations, Chelsea House, 2001.
- E.L. Doctorow edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 2001.
- E.L. Doctorow: An Annotated Bibliography by Michelle M. Tokarczyk, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, 1988.
- Critical Essays on E.L. Doctorow by Ben Siegel, G.K. Hall & Company, 2000.
- The Progressive Era in American Historical Fiction: John Dos Passos’ The 42nd Parallel and E.L.Doctorow’s Ragtime by Tomas Pospisil, Brno : Masarykova univerzita, 1998.
- Post Modernism: On the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism by Frederick Jameson, Duke University Press, 1991.
- The New Covenant: Jewish Writers and the American Idea by Sam B. Girgus, University of North Carolina Press, 1984.
- The Modern American Novel of Violence by Patrick W. Shaw, Whiston Press, 2000.
- ''Der Meta=Western: Studien zu E.L. Doctorow, Thomas Berger und Larry McMurtry (Arbeiten zur Amerikanistik)" by Michael Porsche, Verlag Die Blaue Eule, 1991.
- E.L. Doctorow:Essays and Conversations by Richard Trenner, Ontario Review Press, 1983.
- Fiction as False Document: The Reception of E.L. Doctorow In the Post Modern Age by John Williams, Camden House, 1996.
- E.L.Doctorow by Carol C. Harter and James R. Thompson, Gale Group, 1996.
- The Prophet by John Leonard from the New York Review of Books, June 10, 2004.
- Problematized Narratives: History as Friction In E.L. Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate by Matthew A. Henry from Critique Magazine.
- The Primal Scene in the Public Domain: E.L.Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel by Naomi Morgenstern from Studies in the Novel, Vol 35, 2003.
- The Young Gangster as Mythic American Hero: E.L.Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate by Minako Baba from Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States.
- In This Way He Lost Everything: The Price of Satisfaction in E.L.Doctorow’s World’s Fair by Todd McGowan from Critique, Vol 42, 2001.
- Through a Glass Clearly: Vision as Structure in E.L. Doctorow’s Willi by Ann V. Miller from Studies in Short Fiction.
- Why Not Say What Happened: E.L.Doctorow’s Lives of the Poets by Stephen Matterson from Critique.