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E.L. Doctorow

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( b. Jan 06, 1931 Bronx, New York, USA - d. Jul 21, 2015 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Also known as: Edgar L. Doctorow [Birthname]
E. L. Doctorow was 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. The author of a dozen novels, three volumes of short fiction and a stage drama, as well as essays and commentary on literature and politics, Mr. Doctorow was widely lauded for the originality, versatility and audacity of his imagination.

Subtly subversive in his fiction -- less so in his left-wing political writing -- he consistently upended expectations with a cocktail of fiction and fact, remixed in book after book; with clever and substantive manipulations of popular genres like the Western and the detective story; and with his myriad storytelling strategies. Deploying, in different books, the unreliable narrator, the stream-of-consciousness narrator, the omniscient narrator and multiple narrators, Mr. Doctorow was one of contemporary fiction's most restless experimenters.

In the book that made him famous, "Ragtime" (1975), set in and around New York as America hurtled toward involvement in World War I, the war arrives on schedule, but the actions of the many characters, both fictional and nonfictional (including the escape artist Harry Houdini, the anarchist philosopher Emma Goldman and the novelist Theodore Dreiser) were largely invented. Woven into the rollicking narrative of "Ragtime" are the dawn of the movies and the roots of the American labor movement, tabloid journalism and women's rights. The central plot involves the violent retribution taken by a black musician against a society that has left him without redress for his heinous victimization. The events described never took place, but they contribute to Mr. Doctorow's foreshadowing of racial conflict as one of the great cultural themes of 20th-century American life.

Several of Mr. Doctorow's novels were adapted for the screen, including "Welcome to Hard Times," a film, starring Henry Fonda, that Mr. Doctorow (and most critics) assessed as dreadful. Better films were made of "The Book of Daniel" (it was called, simply, "Daniel," and starred Timothy Hutton), "Ragtime" (directed by Milos Forman, featuring James Cagney in his final appearance in a feature film) and "Billy Bathgate," starring Dustin Hoffman as Dutch Schultz. His short story "Jolene: A Life," tracing the picaresque travels of a teenage orphan girl, was made into a 2008 film that introduced the actress Jessica Chastain. Mr. Doctorow himself played a small role -- as an adviser to President Grover Cleveland -- in "Buffalo Bill and the Indians," an archly comic historical film in 1976 by Robert Altman.

The most prominent adaptation of Mr. Doctorow's work, however, was for the stage. In 1996, Ragtime: The Musical opened in Toronto as the foundation of the theatrical empire planned by the Canadian impresario Garth Drabinsky. Though the show also ran for two years on Broadway, winning four Tony Awards, with several other productions put on in other American cities and internationally, it failed to be the megahit that Mr. Drabinsky gambled it would be.

By 1998, Mr. Drabinsky's company, Livent, was mired in debt; he and a partner, Myron Gottlieb, were ousted by the board, and the men were subsequently indicted in the United States for misappropriating company funds. A less lavish revival of Ragtime appeared on Broadway in 2009.

Mr. Doctorow's own play, Drinks Before Dinner, about a party of urbane New Yorkers that is hijacked by an existentially outraged guest with a gun, was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Christopher Plummer when it was first performed, in 1978 at the Public Theater in Manhattan.

Source: The New York Times obituary 


ProductionsDate of Productions
Ragtime
[Musical, Drama, Revival]
  • Based on the novel "Ragtime" by E.L. Doctorow
Nov 15, 2009 - Jan 10, 2010
Ragtime
[Musical, Drama, Original]
  • Based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow
Jan 18, 1998 - Jan 16, 2000
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