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Ragtime (Modern Library) [Hardcover]

E.L. Doctorow
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: 15.99
Price: 12.11 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 1998 Modern Library
Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disap- pears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sig- mund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence. The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with afford- able hardbound editions of impor- tant works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy- fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch- bearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inau- gurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc; New edition edition (1 Jan 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679602976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679602972
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.6 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,055,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

‘Harry Houdini, the greatest escape artist of all time, walks stark naked up six flights of stairs to Murderers’ Row, to be incarcerated as a supreme test of his power . . . In a cell opposite, Harry Thaw, eccentric heir to a railway fortune who shot architect Stanford White, finishes a six-course dinner with champagne . . . Sigmund Freud is on the loose at Coney Island, riding the scenic railway and taking a boat through the Tunnel of Love with Carl Jung . . . These are the scenes from Ragtime whose author E. L. Doctorow can be named in the same sentence as such giants of the past as James Joyce and John Dos Passos’ Evening Standard ‘Like ragtime, the jazz form made famous by Scott Joplin, Doctorow’s book is a native American fugue, rhythmic, melodic and stately. The book never stands still for a moment. Story lines constantly interweave; historical figures become part of fictional events and fictional characters participate in real history. Doctorow’s image and improvisations foreshadow the twentieth century’s coming preoccupation with scandal, psychoanalysis, solipsism, race, technological power and megalomania . . . He has seized the strands of actuality and transformed them into a fabulous tale’ Time --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Since 1917 The Modern Library prides itself as The modern Library of the world s Best Books . Featuring introductions by leading writers, stunning translations, scholarly endnotes and reading group guides. Production values emphasize superior quality and readability. Competitive prices, coupled with exciting cover design make these an ideal gift to be cherished by the avid reader.

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First Sentence
In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broad-view Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breath taking in its scope. An American classic. 23 Jan 2001
By A Customer
The first time I read Ragtime I was pregnant and so my over zealous enthusiasm for this book was put down to hormonial overload by everyone who knew me. I have since given birth, regained hormonal stability and re-read the book. It's even better second time around. It's a true "can't put it down" classic, leaping from chapter to chapter, pulling you through the Ragtime era of American history. The characters, all famously fimilar, ranging from Henry Ford to Harry Houndi, are alive and accesable. Each character, almost juicy with the richness of the writing, interlink with each other in a (visualise here!) family tree of a story. Each branch touching another. The plot, dark, heartbreaking, original, and massive - involves a typical family, or so they think. As the story evolves you catch your breath, and find youself shouting plaintive "noooooo"'s as each chapter ends. The subject matter on the surface seems heavy, and to a less skilled writer than Doctorow, taboo (racisim, child abandonment,terrorism); but don't be put off if it's just a good read you're after.Trust me, if I could buy this book for you I would. Yes, it's been made into a film. Yes, it's been made into a musical and a very good job they did too, but the detail and the real story's in the book. Enjoy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doctorow's Best 1 Dec 2002
This is the modern day eqivalent of John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy. The vignettes Doctorow draws for us have a great deal in common, with Dos Passos' "I am a camera" snapshots. Doctorow depicts an era that is generally regarded in the American historical consciousness as being primarily bucolic and carefree. The nation, relatively innocent, having shaken off the aftereffects of the civil war, has recently won the spurious Spanish-American war, and is generally revelling in a sense of purpose and civility.
What Doctorow is suggesting is that this serene surface was already infected, with a host of social ills festering beneath it. A shift was occuring that would lead to labor riots, race riots, change in mores (sexual attitudes), loss of faith in institutions, etc. that would define the 20th century. If this were all of Doctorow's plan however, it would have been interesting Sociology, but a pretty boring novel.
Doctorow is above all an interesting storyteller. He knows how to keep a plot moving and how to invest it with enough intellectual hardware to make the reader feel that his/her time has been worth the effort. He can bring a scene to life with a few fresh (never shopworn) details. He doesn't spend a great deal of time elabortaing over these details, as James or Wolfe do, but he makes the reader just as cognizant of them. A few brushstrokes and we are there. His writing is cinematic, in that we can "see" the scene he is depicting, without burdening us with excess verbiage. This is the hallmark of a really good author. Ragtime is a primary example of this kind of shorthand acumen. The novel flashes by as seen in a kinescope. I, for one, was delighted I had inserted my nickle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great American Novel (in a warped sense) 8 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This novel is by far one of the best books I have ever read. The writing style is very lyrical and sweet and lovely. The author keeps the characters blank and nameless to allow them to be anyone (which is a brilliant idea). Also, we can see, through the one-dimensional characters, certain aspects of society. Father-the all-american type. Mother-the stay at home and dream woman. Etc...PLus, it beautifully deals with racism by having a protagonist (Coalhouse Walker) meet the Chief Conklin! And what happens? Booker T. Washington comes in and advocates nonviolent protest. Furthermore, it deals with (one of) the trial(s) of the century:Stanford White. All in all the novel is quite well researched and well done. PLEASE ignore the commentor who complains about Freud. If you want a book with Freud, read a book about Freud (doesn't sound TOO odd).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'American Novel'? 31 May 2013
There always seem to have been books called the 'American Novel', but lets face it on closer observation most of them aren't really able to conjure up a whole nation and its positiveness as well as its faults. Doctorow's novel on the other hand does so, and very skilfully, all with quite some irreverence.

Set in the early part of the Twentieth Century, this takes us up to just past the First World War. Doctorow's novel for the majority takes place in the State of New York. With fictional characters as well as real life ones this novel creates a kaleidoscopic swirl that takes in so many issues, with politics from anarchy and socialism through to capitalism, with other issues, such as racism, home grown terrorism, poverty and entrepreneurship, as well as religion and cults, and the occult. Into this seething cauldron of ideas Doctorow does give us a plot of sorts, but the best way is just to go with the flow of this energetic book. For something that is actually under three hundred pages, when you finish this it seems to have been longer, due to the range of topics covered. Packed full of incident this is never boring to read and full of humour, from more subtle to outright funny, including some of it quite dark.

First published in the mid-Seventies you can see that although this is an historical novel as such, Doctorow had his eye firmly on what was happening when he wrote this, and as you read this you can also think of the US today and its problems, meaning that this has never really dated. This is a great read, and surely the contender for the 'American Novel'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, just make sure you persevere
The first half of the book just about held my interest, the second half had me frantically turning the page. A fascinating story beautifully interwoven. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Seth Burkett
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight of time in history
a very enjoyable and fastcinating insight into the lives and times of pre 1st world war America. This felt like several books rolled into one, focusing on various levels of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by D. Sivyer
4.0 out of 5 stars American realist
This is a clearheaded portrait of an era we've all heard so much about. Through Hollywood movies and general fiction we are lead to believe that Gangsters ruled and everyone was... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Will Lusty
5.0 out of 5 stars Layers of America
First published in the 1970s this is a brilliant, vivid, daring story of the ragtime era - a time that defines the American character with all its contradictions. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sally
5.0 out of 5 stars what a book!
outstanding. if you haven't read this your in for a treat. just read it, it really is worth your attention. that is my opinion anyway im no critic
Published 18 months ago by L. J. Burns
5.0 out of 5 stars Ragtime by E L Doctorow
Brilliant book. Set in early 1900s in New York State, it weaves fictional characters with real characters and events in a classic tale of alienation, political intrigue and drama. Read more
Published 21 months ago by elroberto
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing. Doctorow classic.
Wow! An American classic that seems not to be as well known as it should. An incredible patchwork quilt of a story which segues so many different elements together - beautifully. Read more
Published 24 months ago by TildaB
5.0 out of 5 stars American classic
Having seen 'Ragtime' at The RegentsPark Open Air Theatre, I was encouraged to read this tale of Ameriva in the early 20th century. Read more
Published on 18 July 2012 by Skippy
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary classic
A thought provoking book full of history interlinked with real characters and events, thoroughly enjoyable and justifiably classed as the great American novel.
Published on 29 Oct 2011 by Ian
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
It took me a short while to get into this book but once I was it was an astonishing read. Bizarre and macabre as well as thought provoking. Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2011 by Mr. R. Little
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