E.L. Doctorow, Novelist, Professor, Author, Dead at 84

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E.L. Doctorow, a quintessential New York novelist and author of such well known and highly regarded novels as World's Fair, Billy Bathgate, Loon Lake and Watership Down has died according to family. He was 84.

E.L. Doctorow was born in 1931 in Bronx, New York, Edgar Lawrence, the son of second generation Russian-Jewish immigrants. Living the life of the early New York evolution became the backdrop for many of his works.


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A Professor at New York University's English Literature Department he taught the hopeful, instilling them with wit, wisdom, honing skill, destroying hope only to resuscitate the creative with simple praise.

Well read by his literary contemporaries who took notice of his manipulations of history, which allowed others to address as fact that which was only fiction.

John Updike, particularly critical of Doctorow's style and historical mashup, said "Reading historical fiction," Updike went on to critique The March "we often itch, our curiosity piqued, to consult a book of straight history, to get to the facts without the fiction."

And of Ragtime, another best seller, Updike said "It smacked of playing with helpless dead puppets, and turned the historical novel into a gravity-free, faintly sadistic game."

A New York literati staple at full bloom during the height of his cross over careers from novelist to playwright to screenwriter, Doctorow was well known an a champion of the small intimate bookstores that once dotted the upper west side of Manhattan using the smaller crowd to introduce his newest novel.

This writers introduction to the works of E.L. Doctorow began during a summer session literature class on the south fork of Long Island. Traveling though the 20th century armed with the must reads of each decade, the initialed Doctorow repeated through multiple decades.

Hooked on the historical blend, Doctorow became a study of which was pleasantly culminated some years later at New York University's English Literature Department during my two years as the department administer.

One summer afternoon, armed with six, possibly eight, Doctorow novels I headed to his office and he politely signed every one. I was a fan, a student, a writer. Somehow his signature validated it all.


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E.L. Doctorow died in his Upper West Side home from lung cancer complications. His family, wife of more than six decades, and children were at his side.

Sources: New York Times, E.L. Doctorow, Literary Time Traveler, Who Stirred Past Into Fiction, Dead at 84, July 22, 2015, [online version].

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