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E. L. Doctorow (Edgar Lawrence Doctorow) Biography

(1931– ), (Edgar Lawrence Doctorow), Welcome to Hard Times, Bad Man From Bodie, Big as Life

American novelist, born in New York, educated at Kenyon College and Columbia University. After working as a screenplay reader for Columbia Pictures, he wrote Welcome to Hard Times (1960; UK title Bad Man From Bodie, 1961) which examines the illusory foundations of the American myth of progress through the conventions of the Western. There followed the appearance of Big as Life (1966), a science fiction satire set in New York, and The Book of Daniel (1971), a fictional investigation of the impact of the Rosenberg trial on the children of the couple and employing that historical moment to study the traditions of the political left in America through the McCarthyite period to the 1960s. His major success came with Ragtime (1975), the story of Coalhouse Walker and his ever-escalating struggle against racism and injustice. Based on Kleist's Kolhaus legend, the novel examines the relationship of past and present by blending historical figures like Emma Goldman, Freud, Jung, and Ford, and fictional invention into a fast-moving and incisive narrative which moves to an explosive conclusion (see New Journalism). He has continued to use this formula to considerable effect in later works, which include Loon Lake (1980), a novel about economic and political injustice in a searing portrait of the USA in the Depression, World's Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1988), and The Waterworks (1994). His other work includes the play Drinks Before Dinner (1979); the screenplay Daniel (1983); Lives of the Poet, Six Stories and a Novella (1984), which reflects upon the dual position of the writer as observer and participant in society; and Poets and Presidents: Selected Essays 1977–1992 (1994).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Walter John De La Mare Biography to Hilda Doolittle Biography