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Ragtime (Picador Books) [Paperback]

E L Doctorow
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Jan 1985 Picador Books
‘As exhilarating as a breath of pure oxygen . . . this highly original novel is enormous fun to read’ Newsweek

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Product details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 9 edition (11 Jan 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330288490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330288491
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.1 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 595,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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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

About the Author

E.L. Doctorow is one of America's most accomplished and acclaimed living writers. Winner of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award (twice), the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Humanities Medal, he is the author of nine novels that have explored the drama of American life from the late 19th century to the 21st.

Al Alvarez is a poet, literary critic, and author of many non-fiction books on topics ranging from suicide, divorce and dreams - The Savage God, Life After Marriage, Night - to poker and mountaineering - The Biggest Game in Town, Offshore. He was poetry editor of The Observer from 1956-66. He has contributed regularly to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. His most recent books are an autobiography, Where Did It All Go Right?, New & Selected Poems and The Writer's Voice. He lives in London.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview 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
Doctorow digs into the unlovely truths behind our cosy received notions of the past - and blows them up in our faces. A salutary historical lesson, but told with such human warmth and meticulously imagined scenarios that, rather than despair, the reader feels a strange optimism: that we must, and can, do better next time. And Doctorow makes sure that we know there will be a next time; the intricate links between our past and our present are his great theme. Doctorow loves humanity and hates oppression - and portrays both with such immediacy that you laugh and cry along with him. A lovely man with a deep passion for humanity. Read this book!
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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 Five Stars
Great Product great price will buy from again !
Published 6 days ago by Henry William Hubball
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful evocation of early 20th century New York.
Published 9 days ago by Jerry Kelleher
5.0 out of 5 stars Great service.
Exactly as described, on time and with a bookmark!
Published 11 days ago by lizzie1006
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 4 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 6 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 6 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 13 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 19 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 22 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 on 24 Aug 2012 by TildaB
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