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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 & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves hi 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 & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY, 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. Almost magically, the line between fantasy & historical fact, between real & imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud & Emiliano Zapata slip in & out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family & other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler & a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.


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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 & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves hi 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 & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY, 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. Almost magically, the line between fantasy & historical fact, between real & imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud & Emiliano Zapata slip in & out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family & other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler & a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.

30 review for Ragtime

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    335. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow Ragtime is a novel by E. L. Doctorow, published in 1975. This work of historical fiction is mainly set in the New York City area from 1902 until 1912, with brief scenes towards the end describing the United States' entry into World War I in 1917. The novel centers on a wealthy family living in New Rochelle, New York, simply named Father, Mother, Mother's Younger Brother, Grandfather, and 'the little boy', Father and Mother's young son. The narrator is never identified. 335. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow Ragtime is a novel by E. L. Doctorow, published in 1975. This work of historical fiction is mainly set in the New York City area from 1902 until 1912, with brief scenes towards the end describing the United States' entry into World War I in 1917. The novel centers on a wealthy family living in New Rochelle, New York, simply named Father, Mother, Mother's Younger Brother, Grandfather, and 'the little boy', Father and Mother's young son. The narrator is never identified. The family business is the manufacturer of flags and fireworks, an easy source of wealth due to the national enthusiasm for patriotic displays. Father joins the first expedition to the North Pole, and his return sees a change in his relationship with his wife, who has experienced a taste of independence in his absence. Mother's Younger Brother is a genius at explosives and fireworks, but is an insecure, unhappy character who chases after love and excitement. He becomes obsessed with the notorious socialite Evelyn Nesbit, stalking her through the city and eventually embarking on a brief, unsatisfactory affair with her that leaves him even more isolated. ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 2006میلادی عنوان: رگتایم؛ نویسنده: ای.ال دکتروف؛ مترجم: نجف دریابندری؛ تهران، خوارزمی، چاپ دوم مهرماه 1367؛ چاپ سوم 1385، در 280ص؛ شابک 9644870735؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان آمریکایی - سده 20م عنوان کتاب یعنی: «رگتایم»، نام نوعی موسیقی جاز است؛ نوعی موسیقی که از ترانه‌ های بردگان سیاه‌پوست آمریکا سرچشمه گرفته؛ «رگ» به معنای ژنده و پاره و گسیخته؛ و «تایم» به معنای وزن و ضربان موسیقی است؛ نویسنده می‌خواهد کیفیت پرضربان، گسسته، پیوسته، و دردآلود داستانی را که بنوشته، ‌به خوانشگر گوشزد کند؛ در داستان «کولهاس واکر»، «رگتایم» می‌نوازد؛ کسی که معادل واقعی و تاریخی «کولهاس» است، یک سیاه دیگر است، به نام «اسکات جابلین»، که «رگتایم» را او اختراع کرده است؛ او جمله معروفی دارد، می‌گوید: «این قطعه را تند ننوازید؛ درست نیست که رگتایم را تند بنوازید»؛ توصیه به درد بخوری است؛ «رگتایم» را آهسته آهسته بخوانید، و از آن لذت بسزا ببرید؛ آقای «دکتروف» خیلی بهتر از آنکه فکر کنید دروغ بافته است؛ «ادگار لارنس دکتروف»، جایی گفته است: «این جهان برای دروغگوها ساخته شده، و ما نویسندگان، دروغگوهای مادرزادیم؛ اما مردم باید ما را باور کنند، چون که تنها ماییم که اعلام می‌کنیم حرفه‌ مان دروغگویی است؛ پس این یعنی که فقط ما صادق هستیم!»؛ «دکتروف» راست می‌گویند؛ ایشان از بهترین دروغگوها هستند؛ او داستانی نوشته، که در آن بخشی از تاریخ یک کشور را روایت کرده، اما آنقدر ماهرانه اینکار را انجام داده، که کسی باورش نمی‌شود، داستان را از خودش درآورده است؛ او برای بیان صادقانه ی دروغ‌های شاخدارش، ‌حتی از خبرهای فرعی روزنامه‌ های آن زمان هم نگذشته، و کتابی نوشته پر از جزئیات واقعی؛ شاید حرف «دکتروف» در «رگتایم» این پرسش اساسی بوده باشد که: « آیا ما تاریخ را می‌سازیم یا تاریخ ما را؟»؛ و شاید هم این حرف که: «تاریخ، نوعی ادبیات است»؛ هرکدام که باشد، «رگتایم» همگی آدم‌های بیزار از تاریخ را، جذب می‌کند؛ ایشان جزئیات آمریکای در حال صنعتی شدن را، نشانتان می‌دهد، و با شما کاری می‌کند، که حتی جزئیات فنی ماشین‌سازی «هنری فورد» را هم، نمی‌خواهید نخوانده بگذارید؛ «رگتایم» با ترجمه ی خوب جناب «نجف دریابندری»، و با ظاهری ساده آراسته شده است، و البته فونتی دل آزار دارد؛ آمیزه ای از رویدادها و کنش شخصیتهای واقعی و خیالی و ینگه دنیایی، افرادی چون «هنری فورد» و ...، آغاز رویدادها از سالهای نخستین سده بیستم میلادی، تا پایان جنگ جهانگیر نخست است، اطلاعات تاریخی و روحیه ی آمریکائی تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 24/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    A ragin' feelin' I had during the first half of "Ragtime" was... oh-my-gawd, this may possibly become my favorite novel all year. Yeah. That overwhelmingly delicious feeling last year achieved during my "Where'd You Go Bernadette"/"The Godfather" double whammy was reproduced, until it, almost organically, chose to focus on one specific era in U.S. history! Ragtime is just so majestically beautiful, taking on the whole of America between 1903 & 1915, aka the dawning of the 20th century, displayin A ragin' feelin' I had during the first half of "Ragtime" was... oh-my-gawd, this may possibly become my favorite novel all year. Yeah. That overwhelmingly delicious feeling last year achieved during my "Where'd You Go Bernadette"/"The Godfather" double whammy was reproduced, until it, almost organically, chose to focus on one specific era in U.S. history! Ragtime is just so majestically beautiful, taking on the whole of America between 1903 & 1915, aka the dawning of the 20th century, displaying an intrepid attitude that blazes, that accelerates. It is incredible; an accessible, long meditation, like a panorama-portrait described with broad, lush strokes; accessible unlike Saramago or Garcia Marquez. It's funny, it's very clever with its use of scales, for everything in literature is worth a mention: from a simple shadow on the floor to the features of the general populace of the great American metropolis--this novel has it all. & when the scale becomes unfathomable, Doctorow maintains one singular strand in a huge tapestry that has many strands, it seems. He chooses to fix the novel past the faux-majesties of the new money set (where Gatsby existed) and the slum-wretched-poor (the days before the grapes of wrath) in a factual story of a black man robbed of his property, his basic human dignity, and consequently of his revenge on the white cowards. "Ragtime" is entertaining, wholesome, very educational, & I would urge every American History teacher to add it to the syllabus. It describes a macrocosm effectively & the factoids are invigorating. Plus, the prose, well, it's endearing, unforgettable, good-great-amazing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    No One Ever Drove This Fast Before The most startling thing about Ragtime is the pace of the narrative. It never slackens, even to allow direct speech. It moves relentlessly from place to place, person to person, with non-stop description, assertion, connection, reversal. There are crowds and traffic and excitement wherever you look. If there is temporary equilibrium, it is fragile: a tour boat listing first to starboard then to port; a motor car belching steam at the crest of a hill, a chauffeur No One Ever Drove This Fast Before The most startling thing about Ragtime is the pace of the narrative. It never slackens, even to allow direct speech. It moves relentlessly from place to place, person to person, with non-stop description, assertion, connection, reversal. There are crowds and traffic and excitement wherever you look. If there is temporary equilibrium, it is fragile: a tour boat listing first to starboard then to port; a motor car belching steam at the crest of a hill, a chauffeur bribed to keep his mouth shut. This is extrovert writing. Active voice. Strong verbs. Present tense. High-frequency transmission. Introspection and interior monologue are almost non-existent. It's like travelling in an empty railway carriage as the scenery of events passes by, with billboards flashing the names of contemporary celebrities: Admiral Peary, Teddy Roosevelt, Stanford White, Freud, Houdini. Not until Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho will there be more trendy brand names and trademarks in a novel. What matters in Ragtime is mood, style, spirit. Plot is really the history of the epoch, a new age in America. Character is the making of that history by immigrants and street people and freaks and the new suburbanites and the Robber Barons of Fifth Avenue and Murray Hill. The principle characters are roles not people: Father, Tateh (Yiddish for Daddy), Younger Brother, The Boy. To have a proper name in Ragtime means the character is disposable background used to connect the principle roles to historical events: Houdini comes to the suburban house and exchanges adventure-tales with Father; Evelyn Nesbit, notorious wife of a celebrity-murderer, has an affair with Younger Brother and falls in love with Tateh. Getting on, moving up, splashing out is what everyone does. Each in their own way dependent on class: insanely opulent parties for the insanely wealthy, polar expeditions for the well-off bourgeoisie, and an outing on the street cars for the proles. Members of each class know almost nothing of those of another, but each celebrates its distinct freedoms to the most they are able. This is the American Way. If it seems heartless or pointless - racist lynchings, destitution, child labour, starvation wages - that's only because you're not part of it. This constitutes the real world: get over it, or go back where you came from, or die: it's called freedom of choice. Socialism and anarchism come with the immigrants. Agitation is intellectual - plays, lectures, study groups - with an international awareness that would disappear by mid-century. The plays of Ibsen are used to incite the masses as well as provoke police retaliation. Sex is something you discover accidentally for yourself. Unanalysed, it just happens, and you get on with that too, usually badly, and with the still prevailing dire consequences. Assassination is still a common form of transfer of governmental power. Men still love their non-Oedipal mothers without guilt or shame. Women radicals like Emma Goldman make no distinction between capitalist oppression and patriarchal abuse. Both oppression and abuse have to be eradicated and the corporate system, because neither it nor its universal media yet exist, don't co-opt them as armchair liberals. The automobile is a luxury but that doesn't matter because trams can get you from New York to Boston for a nickel. But probably not if you're Black. This is a novel of America on the turn, racing to get somewhere else as rapidly as possible. The immigrants want out of New York, the aspiring rubes want in. The national horror of the Civil War has been fictionalised by both sides into an heroic misunderstanding. So much fuss it was and no one could remember what it was about. These labour unions are going to crush this country if we don't crush them first. None of 'em is even American, yet. The only thing more irritating than immigrants is black folk, specially when they start acting like they was white folk. Europeans may be decadent and always feuding over something silly, but their armies are sufficiently distant not to be a worry. Everything we want is made, or grown, or taken out of the earth right here, or soon will be thanks to Morgan's money and Ford's genius. Anyway the Pacific is easier prey: Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines in the bag already. Industrialisation has taken an unexpected direction: not the factory-model of England so effectively attacked by Marx, but in the construction of giant corporate cartels controlled by a few hundred financiers. But who’s worried: the American world runs on parallel rails of steel that have no obvious terminus. Everything after this cultural turn we can recognise as modern America. What happened before is forgotten or mythologised. It might as well be the new creation talked about in the Bible. At least that idea would keep the momentum, the crowds, the traffic, the striving upward, the excitement of 20th century America going; even if the ultimate destination isn't a religious paradise but entirely un-thought and unknown. Movement is the most important thing. Our legacy, honoured still.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    The time from 1902 to about 1914, the place around New York City an its prosperous suburb New Rochelle, New York, the Ragtime Era, Scott Joplin lively, syncopated music has swept the nation ( if you ever seen the film The Sting, you will recognize the sounds). A wealthy family, they make fireworks and American flags, living contently in all appearances outside the city, Father, Mother, Mother's Younger Brother, Grandfather and the little boy...yes... no proper names given here, kind of quirky to The time from 1902 to about 1914, the place around New York City an its prosperous suburb New Rochelle, New York, the Ragtime Era, Scott Joplin lively, syncopated music has swept the nation ( if you ever seen the film The Sting, you will recognize the sounds). A wealthy family, they make fireworks and American flags, living contently in all appearances outside the city, Father, Mother, Mother's Younger Brother, Grandfather and the little boy...yes... no proper names given here, kind of quirky to be sure. The author E.L. Doctorow to mix things up, has an abandoned newly born black baby, found and saved by the unnamed family near their home. Sarah a naive teenager, who left her child on the ground to die, is very depressed, a broken love affair, the reason and taken in as a housekeeper, they feels sorry for her. Coalhouse Walker Jr. the unfazed lover, a musician and superb piano player locates Sarah, after a search, visits every week, the backdoor of course, ironically at first she will not see him, or even care for the unwanted infant. Mr. Walker, a native of St. Louis, is a proud man and doesn't take insults from anyone, the color of his skin has not made him feel inferior, quite the contrary. Showing the impressed family how great a pianist, in their out of tune piano, that embarrasses the head of the house. So when he is harassed by the volunteer firemen led by racist chief Will Conklin, jealous of Walker's Model T Ford, passing the station, the well dressed and soft spoken black man, demands justice, when his car is damaged by them. Not receiving satisfaction from the uninterested local authorities, he reported the incident to, and takes justice into his own hands...which causes much destruction , more than the fireworks family ever imagined; to the usually quiet, small town , no justice, no peace the writer seems to say . Terror permeates the whole municipality, making national headlines as the destruction spreads. Nevertheless how far can this be taken without injuring innocent people? This question can never be answered properly and it isn't here...Historical figures materialize in the novel continuously, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbit etc. , they spice up the narrative. A fun aspect of this book, one of many. This a short but important and thought- provoking, prizewinning work, for readers who dig underneath and discover the truth, everyone wants respect... no matter the race they are born into...people are just people...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Today I was thinking of the 101 reasons why I love books, the actual physical papery pagey spiney things with words all over them, and one of the reasons was that they're not machines. Everything i seem to have to do these days is with some kind of machine. At work, of course, chained to the pc - actually it's a laptop on a docking station with two screens, I wonder when they'll add me a third, and although I'm emailing and talking to people all day long (sexy voiced nurses from France and Argen Today I was thinking of the 101 reasons why I love books, the actual physical papery pagey spiney things with words all over them, and one of the reasons was that they're not machines. Everything i seem to have to do these days is with some kind of machine. At work, of course, chained to the pc - actually it's a laptop on a docking station with two screens, I wonder when they'll add me a third, and although I'm emailing and talking to people all day long (sexy voiced nurses from France and Argentina and Ohio some of the time) still it's all software this, click here, upload that, database, gateway, you know. Then when you're home and you want to have a nice time watching somebody's life go off the rails and everything go to hell in a hand basket - let's say season three of Breaking Bad - it's dvd time, I haven't got with the streaming thing yet, still old fashioned, but that's all technobuttons and three remote controls for some reason. Enough of that - let's listen to some pre-war hillbilly or some French 60s stuff I got recently - iPod, more machinery - everything digitised, everything turned into waves and dots and Hoggs Bison particles. But not books. No downloading, no clicking, no batteries, no booting up. You open it, and there it is, working for you. You can drop it on rugged terrain from a height of - well, any height - I bet you could sling a paperback off a fifty storey tower block and still read it after it landed - unless it landed on a passing pedestrian and brained them and had to be bagged as evidence. Books are almost indestructible. I left one out in the rain once. Didn't matter. I dried it out over a two week period and aside from a little crinkling, you couldn't tell. Books are tough customers. They can take it. Not like iPods. They can't take it. Try throwing one of those from a speeding car. They're trying to turn books into machinery. Not my books. Might be good for the new generation of teenage cyborgs sprouting up, who'll never know the joy of shelves, but I like the heft of the thing in your fist - or your delicate spindly sensitive fingers, of course. I thought Ragtime was the bees' knees, the cat's miaow and the turtle's lambada. I couldn't see that it was possible to dislike this novel . I wanna read it again.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ― E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime So my first book of 2014 isn't even on my to-read list. Must be good. Yes, in fact it is the killer historical novel of the Ragtime era. It is the big uncle to late 90s Philip Roth ('I Married a Communist', 'American Pastoral') , Don DeLillo ('Libra', 'Underworld'), Gore Vidal ('Empire, Hollywood') & Norman Mailer* (Executioner's Song & Harlot's “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ― E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime So my first book of 2014 isn't even on my to-read list. Must be good. Yes, in fact it is the killer historical novel of the Ragtime era. It is the big uncle to late 90s Philip Roth ('I Married a Communist', 'American Pastoral') , Don DeLillo ('Libra', 'Underworld'), Gore Vidal ('Empire, Hollywood') & Norman Mailer* (Executioner's Song & Harlot's Ghost) novels which seem to all bend a little to the wind that blew out of this syncopated, tight, urgent historical novel. Doctorow captures a swift and direct channel of New York's energy, contradiction, growth, insecurity, isolation as America transformed between the late 1800s and early 1900s. It captured the race, immigrant, monied, and cultural changes that gripped New York as cars were beginning to roll down the streets and planes and Houdini were both beginning to float, briefly, in the air. * Doctorow actually edited Norman Mailer's 'An American Dream' so it might seem odd to call Doctorow a literary uncle to Mailer since 'Ragitme' was originally published in 1974, but as most large families invariably find some nephews ARE actually older than their biological uncles. But I still hold that 'Ragtime' was influential on Mailer's later historical novels and even nonfiction. OK, so, perhaps Mailer and Doctorow are more like kissing cousins. Fine. I'll call them cousins.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Sometime early in his career E.L. Doctorow figured out a great formula for historical fiction. He takes real life iconic figures from whatever era he’s covering and has them interact in believable ways with his fictional characters. It makes for a “show, don’t tell” scenario that brings history alive. With Ragtime, we get to peek inside the heads of Houdini, Freud, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Henry Ford and others. In the process, we learn the issues of the day and get an authentic feel for the s Sometime early in his career E.L. Doctorow figured out a great formula for historical fiction. He takes real life iconic figures from whatever era he’s covering and has them interact in believable ways with his fictional characters. It makes for a “show, don’t tell” scenario that brings history alive. With Ragtime, we get to peek inside the heads of Houdini, Freud, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Henry Ford and others. In the process, we learn the issues of the day and get an authentic feel for the setting. We can appreciate the context and connections that animate his stories. Ragtime is set in the decade leading up to WWI. There was a lot going on in those days, especially in a place like New York. It was a period of social unrest, brought on, no doubt, by the great divide between the haves and the have-nots. An upper middle-class family in New Rochelle was one focal point of the book, and a Jewish immigrant and his young daughter were another. Their changing fortunes were charted in revealing ways. A ragtime pianist also featured prominently – as articulate and clean as a President (sorry, Joe Biden has always seemed blunderously funny to me) until racist stupidity on the part of a fire chief pushed his buttons. Doctorow, as usual, weaved the stories together well. He was long on conflict, too, which kept the pages turning. World’s Fair and Billy Bathgate were very good in a similar way, that is, in mixing real people and events with those of his own creation. At the same time, I’ve also noticed some common threads that have begun to put me off just a tad. For one, the men and even the young boys are often – how should I put it – carnally preoccupied. (Some might say it’s almost to the extreme of actuality.) Another repeated theme seems to be how much more fully evolved the Jewish soul is compared to the Gentile one. Again, some may say it’s a representative depiction of the true demographic, but it seems a little too overt when virtually all the Jews are wise (both in the book sense and the street sense), morally superior, and rife with character for having been so downtrodden. Doctorow grew up in the Bronx, of Russian Jewish parentage, so I suppose he comes by any biases honestly. It’s not like any of that particularly bothered me. It was just something I noticed. What seemed more provocative, though, was the favorable light he seemed to shine on the anarchists he profiled. Anytime killing people is part of your agenda, I like to believe you’re inviting an “Extremist” label to your cause, but I didn’t get the feeling from the book that E.L. agreed. I’m still a big Doctorow fan, but I don’t necessarily look to him as a guide across history’s rockier political landscapes. When he’s just telling his stories, I think he’s great; as an essayist on morality, maybe less so.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    "Patriotism was a reliable sentiment in the early 1900's. Teddy Roosevelt was President. The population customarily gathered in great numbers either out of doors for parades, public concerts, fish fries, political picnics, social outings, or indoors in meeting halls, vaudeville theatres, operas, ballrooms." This relatively short novel is jam-packed with a myriad of characters – some fictional and some real-life individuals. It is a grand undertaking that introduces us to the events and people of "Patriotism was a reliable sentiment in the early 1900's. Teddy Roosevelt was President. The population customarily gathered in great numbers either out of doors for parades, public concerts, fish fries, political picnics, social outings, or indoors in meeting halls, vaudeville theatres, operas, ballrooms." This relatively short novel is jam-packed with a myriad of characters – some fictional and some real-life individuals. It is a grand undertaking that introduces us to the events and people of early twentieth century America, of New York in particular. For any reader interested in a panoramic view of the times, Ragtime definitely delivers. Anyone that savors an in-depth character study may find this book lacking in that regard. In fact, several major characters are without names throughout. Instead, we meet Mother, Father, Younger Brother, and the boy. I had a hard time connecting with them; besides being nameless they were also remote and I felt detached from them emotionally. A handful of imaginary characters are given names, that of Tateh, Sarah, Coalhouse Walker Jr., and the poverty and injustices suffered by this group is shown in stark contrast to the affluence and social standing of those unnamed. I did find it quite interesting when a variety of prominent historical figures wandered into the plot to make an appearance or two. Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, J.P. Morgan, Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman and even the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to name a few are weaved into this story along with our fictional characters. At times the stories of the real and imaginary intersect in a curious manner. This was my second E.L. Doctorow work. I enjoyed it but perhaps not quite as much as my first, Homer and Langley. I think it was an excellent endeavor and was clearly well-researched. I learned a little bit about a lot of folks. It was a bit too sweeping in such few pages for my taste and at times it was confusing as the plot jumped around. What I found to be the most stimulating was the story of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. From ragtime musician to outlaw, he was undoubtedly the most fascinating of fictional characters here. An interchange between this man and Booker T. Washington was one of my favorites in the entire novel. 3.5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    E.L. Doctorow was not on my radar at all until my local bookstore proprietor sang his praises to me. He mentioned Ragtime as a good place to start. So thanks to Brian from Marrowbone Books for the excellent suggestion. The story is set in New Rochelle, New York at the beginning of the 20th century, and mostly focuses on one well-to-do family. Father owns a successful flags and fireworks business. At one point, he sets off on Robert Peary's expedition to reach the North Pole, but on his return, he E.L. Doctorow was not on my radar at all until my local bookstore proprietor sang his praises to me. He mentioned Ragtime as a good place to start. So thanks to Brian from Marrowbone Books for the excellent suggestion. The story is set in New Rochelle, New York at the beginning of the 20th century, and mostly focuses on one well-to-do family. Father owns a successful flags and fireworks business. At one point, he sets off on Robert Peary's expedition to reach the North Pole, but on his return, he finds it hard to resume a normal relationship with his wife. Mother's Younger Brother is an unhappy fellow with a flair for designing elaborate fireworks. He becomes obsessed with the socialite Evelyn Nesbit and spends most of his time following her around. One day, the family take in Sarah, a depressed black girl, and her baby. Coalhouse Walker, the child's father, begins to visit every Sunday even though Sarah refuses to see him. The introduction of this young man will have enormous consequences for the household, and the city in general. One of the things I loved about the book is how real-life figures are seamlessly woven into the narrative. Harry Houdini plays a significant part, and Doctorow does a good job of explaining the motivation behind his death-defying stunts. The financier J.P. Morgan also features, and has a fascinating conversation with Henry Ford. Other cameos include Sigmund Freud, Emiliano Zapata and Archduke Franz Ferdinand - you never know who might show up next. Ragtime brings 1900s America to life in a spectacular way. It's an evocative, page-turning portrait of an exciting period in US history and I can see why it has been hailed as a classic. I look forward to reading more from the esteemed Mr Doctorow, and I'll be pestering my trusty bookseller for more recommendations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    When we read history books, we are given a rather wide view of a tapestry of interconnected events: what Doctorow did with "Ragtime" is to take a magnifying glass to that intricate tapestry to give the reader a much, much closer look at some events that we thought we were familiar with. As such, it's a bit hard to summarize: we follow some episodes of the lives of a Upstate New York family and how their existence is linked to such famous figures as Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, Evelyn When we read history books, we are given a rather wide view of a tapestry of interconnected events: what Doctorow did with "Ragtime" is to take a magnifying glass to that intricate tapestry to give the reader a much, much closer look at some events that we thought we were familiar with. As such, it's a bit hard to summarize: we follow some episodes of the lives of a Upstate New York family and how their existence is linked to such famous figures as Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, etc. The writing style is very simple and clean, which makes "Ragtime" a fast read, and it also strikes a very pleasant storytelling tone. But that tone is also a bit impersonal, and while I enjoyed this visit to early 20th century America, I'm not sure that I loved it... I never really felt transported to the setting, nor especially invested in the stories of the various characters. Which is weird because I am fascinated by that time period... To be honest, this might very well be a case of "it's not you, it's me", as I picked this book up after two rather mind-blowing books, to keep myself distracted during a grueling work retreat. I was definitely not in my best headspace and that might have influenced my reading experience. I might revisit that one someday, just to see if it really is me, or if its the book...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Allie Riley

    Just stunning. One of the best books I've read in a long time. Beautifully written and utterly engrossing, I didn't want it to end (which is one reason I took so long reading it). Very cleverly plotted and extremely atmospheric. The way Doctorow weaves together all the loose ends is masterful. His blending of fact and fiction works superbly well. A wonderful novel. Just stunning. One of the best books I've read in a long time. Beautifully written and utterly engrossing, I didn't want it to end (which is one reason I took so long reading it). Very cleverly plotted and extremely atmospheric. The way Doctorow weaves together all the loose ends is masterful. His blending of fact and fiction works superbly well. A wonderful novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Shores

    I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. I went back and forth between giving it 3 or 4 stars. What to do? I decided that, since I was unsure, erring on the higher side would be more fair. I mean, the content of the book was really good. There were stories centered around a diverse mixiture of people from the early 1900s that included Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, Emma Goldman and Henry Ford. And therein lies my problem. The collection of stories, imho, didn't tr I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. I went back and forth between giving it 3 or 4 stars. What to do? I decided that, since I was unsure, erring on the higher side would be more fair. I mean, the content of the book was really good. There were stories centered around a diverse mixiture of people from the early 1900s that included Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, Emma Goldman and Henry Ford. And therein lies my problem. The collection of stories, imho, didn't translate into one amazing book. There was no common thread. While the author clearly knew lots of really cool bits of information about each of the characters, weaving them together was a big ol' mess, and the commonalities felt forced. I realize that this book is a classic and was chosen by Modern Library as one of the 100 Best Novels of All Time. Like I said, the content was good. I love history. And I love to learn things about historical figures that aren't widely known. In that way, Ragtime was really good. It just jumped around too much for my taste and seemed to throw random events in for no reason (e.g., Freud) other than social observation. Also, I was really skeeved out by Doctorow's descriptions of sex (between Mother and Father and between Father and the Eskimo woman) and bodies, especially of the little girl. It felt dirty-old-man creepy. There was absolutely no need for any of that. It added nothing to the "historical" part of this historical fiction book. I know my opinion is not a popular one. I own this book because it was an Audible Daily Deal forever ago, but I knew nothing about it. I guess I just expected more of a coherent story as opposed to a collection of shorts. So I feel like... "You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting." BUT...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    And though the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, Goldman knew it was only 1906 and there were ninety-four years to go. Ragtime is a vivid, colourful patchwork-like picture of America in the early XX century, when …patriotism was a reliable sentiment…everyone wore white in summer…there were no Negroes. There were no immigrants . It’s a story in which fates of fictitious heroes intertwine with authentic figures of epoch like magician Houdini, tycoons J.P. Morgan and Henry For And though the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, Goldman knew it was only 1906 and there were ninety-four years to go. Ragtime is a vivid, colourful patchwork-like picture of America in the early XX century, when …patriotism was a reliable sentiment…everyone wore white in summer…there were no Negroes. There were no immigrants . It’s a story in which fates of fictitious heroes intertwine with authentic figures of epoch like magician Houdini, tycoons J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford, an anarchist Emma Goldman or Sigismund Freud, who stated only after his back to Vienna America is a mistake, a gigantic mistake. It’s a story about these non-existent and invisible for average American, people: black musician struggling with the world of white man for his rights and dignity or poor emigrants from eastern Europe stayed in slums. We can observe a flourishing capitalism, an anarchism versus socialism, an American dream versus racism, world of the poor and the rich. The novel is set in New York, New Rochelle, Atlantic City and even Arctica when R.E. Peary is reaching the North Pole. Ragtime is a time of economic and social transformations, and technological development. And later ...Well, later the era of Ragtime had finished and America entered the War.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Raul Bimenyimana

    The early nineteenth century epoch seemed like the main character in this story. Filled with historical figures from Booker Washington to Emma Goldman to Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Houdini to J.P. Morgan and more, this book does a wonderful job of giving the reader an idea of the times. Within the story, laying beneath the historical figures are the fictional characters some with such general names as Father, Mother, Boy, Younger Brother that represent the white upper middle class of the time, a The early nineteenth century epoch seemed like the main character in this story. Filled with historical figures from Booker Washington to Emma Goldman to Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Houdini to J.P. Morgan and more, this book does a wonderful job of giving the reader an idea of the times. Within the story, laying beneath the historical figures are the fictional characters some with such general names as Father, Mother, Boy, Younger Brother that represent the white upper middle class of the time, and Tateh and the Girl the immigrant Jewish family, and Coalhouse and Sarah, the young Black couple. It is hard to say what this story is really about, with such different characters budging into the narrative while their paths cross now and then. I think the Houdini passages were the best and I wish the other fictional characters hadn't been buried in a rubble of tales of historical figures where lines of fiction and reality are blurred.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Wildly Overrated (2013) Doctorow, E.L. (1974). Ragtime. New York: Penguin. This impressionistic portrait of New York in the early 1900’s has been widely praised as a “classic,” and has been made into a movie and a Broadway show. I can't understand the attraction. The story is roughly centered on the life of an upper-class family in New York, but dozens of other sub-stories flare up and die down around them. A rich socialite who married for money defends her husband who killed her lover, a famous ar Wildly Overrated (2013) Doctorow, E.L. (1974). Ragtime. New York: Penguin. This impressionistic portrait of New York in the early 1900’s has been widely praised as a “classic,” and has been made into a movie and a Broadway show. I can't understand the attraction. The story is roughly centered on the life of an upper-class family in New York, but dozens of other sub-stories flare up and die down around them. A rich socialite who married for money defends her husband who killed her lover, a famous architect. For no reason at all, she takes up with an impoverished Jewish immigrant and his daughter. Anarchist Emma Goldman appears and “liberates” her from her corset. Harry Houdini appears when he accidentally runs his car into the rich family’s yard. Sigmund Freud appears on his visit to Clark University in 1909. William Taft wins the presidency. Henry Ford has lunch with J.P Morgan. And so on, and on, and on,and on. Toward the end of the (300-page) novel, a black man becomes enraged by an act of racial discrimination and finding no satisfaction in the legal system, turns to violence. That’s the only dramatic move in the entire novel, and it’s supposed to show America’s “loss of innocence” and rising awareness of racism. But that is pure nonsense, as anyone who knows anything about American history (and Black history) can attest. There never was an “age of innocence,” except among the profoundly ignorant, a condition that persists today. I think the reader is supposed to be charmed, or possibly amazed, at the intermingling of fictional and historical characters. I think that was a literary innovation in 1975, I can’t remember, but if so, it is method that no longer has novelty. Charitably, I can say this literary style has not aged well. The writing is pedestrian. Quotation marks are dispensed with, so I guess that’s a sort of innovation, but the language is mundane, the narration predictable and the descriptions full of empty abstraction. There are few memorable scenes or turns of phrase, and there are so many characters, you can’t even remember them, let alone identify with any of them, so the emotional effect of the work is nil. If you don’t know the social history of America during this period, it seems you would be mystified by all the random comings and goings. If you do know the history, you would be stupefied by its unimaginative recitation. Children might like the book because it gives easily digestible access to reasonably accurate history, though without insight. The acclaim this book has received is a mystery to me. It was a huge disappointment.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Very enjoyable novel of turn of the century America. The central plot element is a modernised retelling of Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas - foreknowledge of which is not required for enjoyment of this novel. In a sense I feel it sells that story a little short because it has to share Ragtime with a bunch of other elements and Doctorow doesn't to my taste project the same kind of moral outrage as Kleist but making race the equivalent of late medieval/early modern social structure is still a strong sta Very enjoyable novel of turn of the century America. The central plot element is a modernised retelling of Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas - foreknowledge of which is not required for enjoyment of this novel. In a sense I feel it sells that story a little short because it has to share Ragtime with a bunch of other elements and Doctorow doesn't to my taste project the same kind of moral outrage as Kleist but making race the equivalent of late medieval/early modern social structure is still a strong statement. It is a lean, dry and witty book. The plot elements and characters are chopped up and interspersed with historical figures - including Houdini learning to fly an aeroplane and being mistaken for it's inventor, Freud and Jung going through the tunnel of love together at a Coney Island fairground & Emma Goldmann speaking up for truth and justice. The fictional characters are mainly nameless, reduced to labels. Lots of humour and sharp observation. It is a picture of the USA before the First World War from broken fragments of scandal and celebrity, injustice and struggle, innovation, invention and misunderstanding that has to end inevitably with the promise of Holywood and the mythologisation of the past, of family of a country not big enough for anybody to be able to escape their demons for long, but still with odd implausible chances of happiness for a few.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W9CE... Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017 Considering how often the narrative focus jumps from one character to the next, this should not be the easiest and most addictive of reads. But it fucking is! Ironic and witty and engaging, and so so tragic, Ragtime features an amazing cast of historical figures (Houdini! The Archduke Franz Ferdinand! Henry Ford! PJ Morgan!) and unforgettable fictional characters. You'll read it in one day it's so goo Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W9CE... Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017 Considering how often the narrative focus jumps from one character to the next, this should not be the easiest and most addictive of reads. But it fucking is! Ironic and witty and engaging, and so so tragic, Ragtime features an amazing cast of historical figures (Houdini! The Archduke Franz Ferdinand! Henry Ford! PJ Morgan!) and unforgettable fictional characters. You'll read it in one day it's so good.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    A well written story mixing in famous people and events into a novel about racial injustice, gender injustice, religious injustice, class struggle and ultimate justice outside of the legal procedures. A fun read and yet a very serious examination of right vs. wrong on an intimate level. Easy to see why this book is on so many lists and is so widely read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris_P

    Ragtime is like most reviews here describe it. A pulsing mosaic of real and fictional characters set at the dawn of the 20th century, when miracles where still a thing. I thoroughly enjoyed Doctorow's prose, while my favorite parts were those of Emma Goldman (of course) and Houdini. I was never really a fan of historical fiction but the man with the strange name made me want to reconsider. Ragtime is like most reviews here describe it. A pulsing mosaic of real and fictional characters set at the dawn of the 20th century, when miracles where still a thing. I thoroughly enjoyed Doctorow's prose, while my favorite parts were those of Emma Goldman (of course) and Houdini. I was never really a fan of historical fiction but the man with the strange name made me want to reconsider.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    How to best describe this book so prospective readers will know whether they w like it or not? Look at the beginning lines of the book description: "An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY." Tapestry is the word you want to pay attention to. When you look at a tapestry you see a lot of small details, but you don't get much deep understanding. You are presented w How to best describe this book so prospective readers will know whether they w like it or not? Look at the beginning lines of the book description: "An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY." Tapestry is the word you want to pay attention to. When you look at a tapestry you see a lot of small details, but you don't get much deep understanding. You are presented with a snapshot. Or do this; picture a Brueghel painting - lots of people, each busily doing their own thing. Do you even expect to understand their inner thoughts? No! This is the best way to describe how this book is written. There are tons of interesting details that will have you checking things out at Wikipedia. I didn't know of the existence of “Belgian marble” or “Norwegian maples”, and learning of their existence was interesting. Nevertheless, these are mere surface details describing a place in the book. No further information s given; for that you need to go to Wiki. The smattering of assorted facts captivates a curious reader. What I did not enjoy is that you feel absolutely no empathy for any of the characters. You are delivered a snapshot of a time and place. There is a plot involving a fictional family. We are not meant to be drawn into character analysis. This family consists of a mother, father, son, younger brother (who is the brother of the mother) and a grandfather. No names are given. There are a handful of other fictional characters, but intertwined with these are historical figures all readers will recognize. J. P. Morgan piqued my interest. Historical details are said to be impeccably presented. Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, Robert Peary, Sigmund Freud and Emma Goldman -they are all here too. Do not expect a thorough biography or deep analysis of any of these characters though. The fictional story too presents a snapshot - of New York at the beginning of the 20th Century. Tammany Hall politics, women's rights, racial inequalities and the growing pains of rapid industrialization and growth of unions. The author reads the audiobook in a level tone …. that easily puts the reader to sleep! There is no dialog. What I liked were the assorted facts and the author’s unique way of blending fact with fiction. It may be interesting to note that there is some debate as to whether the author “reinvented” Heinrich von Kleist’s German novella Michael Kohlhaas, published in 1811, or should be considered guilty of plagiarism.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Very enjoyable semi-historical novel set in America at the turn of the 2oth century. The novel revolves around the fortunes of three families; a white family who are unnamed and referred to as father, mother and mother's younger brother, a jewish family and a black family. Their lives intersect in happy and tragic ways. Interspersed are real life characters such as Houdini, Peary,Ford, Morgan (JP), Emma Goldman and part of the fun is spotting the real life characters amongst the fictional. There Very enjoyable semi-historical novel set in America at the turn of the 2oth century. The novel revolves around the fortunes of three families; a white family who are unnamed and referred to as father, mother and mother's younger brother, a jewish family and a black family. Their lives intersect in happy and tragic ways. Interspersed are real life characters such as Houdini, Peary,Ford, Morgan (JP), Emma Goldman and part of the fun is spotting the real life characters amongst the fictional. There is an undercurrent of radicalism in the novel and a strong sense of the injustice of society. The character of Coalhouse Walker and his fight for his rights against an obvious injustice stands out; with a fanatical pursuit of justice at absolutely any cost. A great cost to himself, but also to those he loves. His approach to race is contrasted with that of a real life figure, Booker T washington. There are similar counterpoints in the Jewish and white families which gives the novel real strength. Ragtime is full of life and energy and you get a palpable sense of everything moving in almost double time, like an old black and white film of the time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    rinabeana

    This is a fantastic work of historical fiction. My (somewhat stricter than other people's) definition of historical fiction is a novel in which historical figures not only play a part, but interact with the fictional characters in the story. This novel delivered that in spades! I don't have a large amount of background on the historical figures in the novel, but I read up a little on them and it became clear to me how well Doctorow had fit his fictional characters into their lives. None of what This is a fantastic work of historical fiction. My (somewhat stricter than other people's) definition of historical fiction is a novel in which historical figures not only play a part, but interact with the fictional characters in the story. This novel delivered that in spades! I don't have a large amount of background on the historical figures in the novel, but I read up a little on them and it became clear to me how well Doctorow had fit his fictional characters into their lives. None of what he wrote seemed outside the realm of possibility, though none of it was documented to have happened of course. The early 1900s is also a time period in which I am not well versed, but the descriptions of the political and social climate gave an excellent sense of the setting. In short, I'm really impressed with Doctorow's writing style and choice of subject, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    This rather short novel offers a true kaleidoscope of the United States, at the beginning of the twentieth Century. The story is told by a little boy in a well-off family, near New York. He speaks about himself als 'the boy' or 'the son', and tells about Father, Mother, Younger Brother, and so on, as if trying to present an objective report. In the story also real characters, like Henry Ford, Houdini and Booker T. Washington, play a part. All that results in a magnificient view on the thriving A This rather short novel offers a true kaleidoscope of the United States, at the beginning of the twentieth Century. The story is told by a little boy in a well-off family, near New York. He speaks about himself als 'the boy' or 'the son', and tells about Father, Mother, Younger Brother, and so on, as if trying to present an objective report. In the story also real characters, like Henry Ford, Houdini and Booker T. Washington, play a part. All that results in a magnificient view on the thriving America before the First World War, but also on its dark side, with its poor immigrants, exploited labourers and discriminated blacks (this last theme is covered in a more elaborate way, at the end). In my view Doctorow nearly succeeded in writing a "Great American Novel", with lots of tremenduous scenes. This is absolute craftmanship, but nevertheless I missed just that bit extra to make it a "Great Universal Novel".

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Ragtime is piano music with a syncopated melody. And I would call the novel Ragtime a highly syncopated prose… “He suddenly had an idea for a film. A bunch of children who were pals, white black, fat thin, rich poor, all kinds, mischievous little urchins who would have funny adventures in their own neighborhood, a society of ragamuffins, like all of us, a gang, getting into trouble and getting out again. Actually not one movie but several were made of this vision. And by that time the era of Ragti Ragtime is piano music with a syncopated melody. And I would call the novel Ragtime a highly syncopated prose… “He suddenly had an idea for a film. A bunch of children who were pals, white black, fat thin, rich poor, all kinds, mischievous little urchins who would have funny adventures in their own neighborhood, a society of ragamuffins, like all of us, a gang, getting into trouble and getting out again. Actually not one movie but several were made of this vision. And by that time the era of Ragtime had run out, with the heavy breath of the machine, as if history were no more than a tune on a player piano.” History isn’t a timetable. Every person has one’s own history. Ragtime is a ragged music of the ragged times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    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, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow’s imagined fa 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, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund 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. I had included this book in a round of book speed dating, where I determine if I want to keep a book I haven't read yet. It passed the test and then E.L. Doctorow passed away, so I decided to go back to it. This is pretty much an in memoriam read! I included the publisher summary in the review so you can see all Doctorow is trying to do in 270 pages. I can see why this went on to become a Broadway show, because there are a lot of little stories without a lot of connection other than era and aspiration; it would make for great little vignettes and featured songs with a large cast of recognizable characters, and a few unnamed characters like "Younger Brother" and "Grandfather." There is a lot in here - industry, greed, racial tensions, anarchy, women's rights, even Rosicrucianism! I'm not sure it works as a novel but was still an enjoyable read on a Sunday afternoon.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    From Wikipedia: Ragtime is not a "time" (meter) in the same sense that march time is 2/4 meter and waltz time is 3/4 meter; it is rather a musical genre that uses an effect that can be applied to any meter. The defining characteristic of ragtime music is a specific type of syncopation in which melodic accents occur between metrical beats. This results in a melody that seems to be avoiding some metrical beats of the accompaniment by emphasizing notes that either anticipate or follow the beat ("a r From Wikipedia: Ragtime is not a "time" (meter) in the same sense that march time is 2/4 meter and waltz time is 3/4 meter; it is rather a musical genre that uses an effect that can be applied to any meter. The defining characteristic of ragtime music is a specific type of syncopation in which melodic accents occur between metrical beats. This results in a melody that seems to be avoiding some metrical beats of the accompaniment by emphasizing notes that either anticipate or follow the beat ("a rhythmic base of metric affirmation, and a melody of metric denial"). The ultimate (and intended) effect on the listener is actually to accentuate the beat, thereby inducing the listener to move to the music. Scott Joplin, the composer/pianist known as the "King of Ragtime", called the effect "weird and intoxicating." I have never listened to ragtime music, but by the time I finished this novel, I could understand how it would feel. Great book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Doctorow has this magical talent of weaving multiple fictional narratives of characters both real from history and completely fabricated for his craft - all set in the diorama of time and place in American history that makes the reader experience the world in visceral Technicolor wonder. Page-turning enjoyment of great story telling; a winning accomplishment when a reader can't put the book down and devours it in a day. Doctorow has this magical talent of weaving multiple fictional narratives of characters both real from history and completely fabricated for his craft - all set in the diorama of time and place in American history that makes the reader experience the world in visceral Technicolor wonder. Page-turning enjoyment of great story telling; a winning accomplishment when a reader can't put the book down and devours it in a day.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Ng

    The dust jacket on my copy read: "It is a novel so original, so full of imagination and subtle pleasure, that to describe it further would only dilute the pure joy of reading it. Turn to the first page. Begin. You will never have read anything like _Ragtime_ before. Nothing quite like it has ever been written before." I thought this must be a huge exaggeration. Then I read the book. In fact it's completely the truth. It blends historical personages with central characters who are given no names b The dust jacket on my copy read: "It is a novel so original, so full of imagination and subtle pleasure, that to describe it further would only dilute the pure joy of reading it. Turn to the first page. Begin. You will never have read anything like _Ragtime_ before. Nothing quite like it has ever been written before." I thought this must be a huge exaggeration. Then I read the book. In fact it's completely the truth. It blends historical personages with central characters who are given no names beyond "Father" and "Mother's Younger brother" and "the little boy in the sailor suit" yet are fleshed out in amazing, detail. It's an amazing read, told in prose that's at once sweeping and breathless--it does, it reads like a piece of music.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leland

    This is one of the finest American historical novels yet written. Doctorow recreates the turbulent atmosphere of the early 20th Century through wonderful characters, both historical (including Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Henry Ford) and many memorable fictional characters, like Coalhouse Walker. The book is about America at a time of increased prosperity, great poverty, racial inequality, immigrant sacrifice, and the road to the First World War This is one of the finest American historical novels yet written. Doctorow recreates the turbulent atmosphere of the early 20th Century through wonderful characters, both historical (including Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Henry Ford) and many memorable fictional characters, like Coalhouse Walker. The book is about America at a time of increased prosperity, great poverty, racial inequality, immigrant sacrifice, and the road to the First World War. Arguably E. L. Doctrow's finest work, Ragtime is an important and highly enjoyable work of American fiction.

  30. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    America's Storyteller The following Amazon review, titled "America's Storyteller" dates from December 6, 2005. I am posting the review here on Goodreads in commemoration of Doctorow's July 21, 2015, death. E.L Doctorow's highly readable novels combine history, imagination, character development, a sense of time and place and beautifully controlled and paced writing. Doctorow's relatively early novel, "Ragtime" (1974) remains his best-known work. The book is a delight to read, moves with the feel o America's Storyteller The following Amazon review, titled "America's Storyteller" dates from December 6, 2005. I am posting the review here on Goodreads in commemoration of Doctorow's July 21, 2015, death. E.L Doctorow's highly readable novels combine history, imagination, character development, a sense of time and place and beautifully controlled and paced writing. Doctorow's relatively early novel, "Ragtime" (1974) remains his best-known work. The book is a delight to read, moves with the feel of ragtime piano, and has a light happy surface. Yet the book combines many disparate threads and stories, a wealth of historical and fictional characters thrown together, and offers an unsettling vision of the United States at the turn of the century, c.1906. There is a complex, multi-layered vision at work here. The story is told in the first person in the words of Young Boy, whose parents are Father, a successful manufacturer of fireworks and flags in New Rochelle, New York, and Mother, an increasingly frustrated housewife. Mother has a brother, referred to as "Mother's younger brother" who is infatuated with a notorious, (and historical) beauty and femme fatale of the day, Evelyn Nesbit, and who becomes an expert in the use of explosives in Father's fireworks business. The story of this family slowly intertwines with that of a different American family -- Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from East Europe who at the beginning of the book is struggling as a silouette artist on Hester Street New York City, has young daughter, and Mameh, who through poverty and desperation has abandoned the family for a life of prostitution. There is a third fictitious American intertwined in the story. Sarah is a young (18 years old) black woman who has a young child that come to live with Mother while Father is away exploring the North Pole with Peary. Mid-way in the novel, we meet the baby's father and Sarah's suitor, an older black man and a pianist named Coalhouse Walker. Coalhouse has studied ragtime with Scott Joplin. The book is redolent with Joplin's music including "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Wall Street Rag." Coalhouse, in his dignity and his violent rage, quickly becomes the chief protagonist of the book. Doctorow has resurrected the character of Coalhouse Walker; and as a much younger man he plays a prominent role in his most recent novel, "The March" (2005), a fictional retelling of Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas in the Civil War. But these characters and their interlocking stories are only a part of "Ragtime". Doctorow threads their stories in stunningly with stories of historical figures from early 20th Century America. The characters we meet include the escape artist, Harry Houdini, the anarchist Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, Sigmund Freud, Theodore Roosevelt, Scott Joplin, Evelyn Nesbit, her cuckolded husband, Harry Thaw, and her lover, the architect Stanford White, and several others. Some of these people have prominent roles in the stories while others have cameo parts. But their personalities in virtually every case shine through Doctorow's prose. For all the elan, rambunctiousness, and lyricism of the story, "Ragtime" presents a picture of a United States plagued by racism, poverty, and violence. The story pivots on Coalhouse Walker's attempts to assert his dignity and manhood in the face of a racial slur in New Rochelle. These efforts lead inexorably to violence and to destruction. The excitement, flow and complexity of the stories carry the reader along but the dark undertow is never absent. I think Doctorow is at his best in his portrayals of New York City in all its aspects. I was particularly impressed with his portraits of his life in the tenements with Tateh and his daughters, his scenes of the powerful in New York, (J.P Morgan and his meeting with Henry Ford), and the ubiquitous and lovingly-portrayed Emma Goldman. Doctorow's feel for New York City comes through in this book and in many of his later novels, including "Billy Bathgate" and "City of God". In its musicality, lightness, and depth, "Ragtime" is the work of a great American storyteller. It, and its author, are destined to become American classics. Robin Friedman

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