Advice from the Masters: E.L. Doctorow (In Memoriam)

Jul 22, 2015 | Writing A Book

E.L. Doctorow published novels, short stories, essays, and a bunch of other things, but he’s best known for the novels. They’re not historical novels, per se, but they mix historical characters into the fiction. Or maybe they mix fiction into the history. You can decide for yourself.

The best of those novels, Ragtime, was turned into a film and a musical. The Modern Library editorial board chose it as one of the top novels of the Twentieth Century.

I’ve published one bit of his advice already. The one that follows is from his delightful Paris Review interview.

“I don’t think anything I’ve written has been done in under six or eight drafts. Usually it takes me a few years to write a book.”

E.L. Doctorow died on July 21, 2015. Here are three of his obituaries.

From the NY Times: E.L. Doctorow, Literary Time Traveler Who Stirred the Past Into Fiction, Dies at 84

“E. L. Doctorow, a leading figure in contemporary American letters whose popular, critically admired and award-winning novels — including ‘Ragtime,’ ‘Billy Bathgate’ and ‘The March’ — situated fictional characters in recognizable historical contexts, among identifiable historical figures and often within unconventional narrative forms, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, N.Y.”

From the Washington Post: E.L. Doctorow, author of ‘Ragtime,’ dies at 84

“Few minds were as playful and as serious as E.L. Doctorow’s. Conjurer of old-time gangsters and ragtime stars. Commentator on wars and presidents and the laws of the land. Student of political and literary history and how they tell us who we are now. Doctorow, who died Tuesday at age 84, was the rare American writer to move gracefully between lives as engaged citizen and solitary inventor.”

From the LA Times: E.L. Doctorow dies at 84; award-wining author of ‘Ragtime’

“Times’ book critic David L. Ulin has described Doctorow as the ‘Lon Chaney of American fiction’ for the variety of characters and genres he covered.”

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