Tuesday, April 19, 2011


E.L. Doctorow has a beautiful style, a prose poetry that combines Dos Passos, black, ironic comedy, musical rhythms, and the ability to make history dirty, alive, and relevant. There has been some attempt to franchise this book into respectability but ignore that, as nothing can replicate the experience of actually reading this classic. Bawdy, irreverent, angry, and thoroughly eviscerating of an era commonly portrayed with nostalgia. The end of the gilded age or progressive era is portrayed as a time of racism, revolution, violent suppression of workers, superstition, uncontrolled militarism, poverty, and wild advances in technology but the poetry and ironic touch of the author keep this from merely being a Howard Zinn lecture. The unnamed family as a bit of frame device is slightly awkward and the plot thread of a revenge seeking black militant was probably a little more relevant in the era in which this book was written (the 70’s and Black Power, Black Panthers and even more rogue militants like the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Black Liberation Army), but with a book this luminous and joyful to read this are merely ripples on the pond. Read this every 4th of July.

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