Sunday, February 17, 2008


E.L. Doctorow is coming this spring to the college where I work. Many are looking forward to this visit and so we are all reading his works. I have just finished re-reading Ragtime and remembering how much I enjoyed it for it's seamless weaving together of a strong, beautiful quilt of a story, and it's vivid imagery.

I loved seeing the lower east side through Evelyn's eyes: "...Hebrew letters looking to her eyes like arrangements of bones". And of course the very erotic scene between Evelyn and Emma Goldman. It was interesting that Mother's Younger Brother became a participant in this scene between two women instead of merely a voyeur. I believe had the book been written today he might have been the unseen watcher, of a tender yet highly charged encounter between Emma and Evelyn, but in the 1970s our dominant cultural imagination had to see the climax as the providence of a man. (see pgs 52-54 in Random House hardcover edition).

I also found the end chapters of Mother's Younger Brother's journey to Mexico to fight with Pancho Villa and our own Nation's foray into that same war as very pertinent to our situation today. Teddy Roosevelt accuses Woodrow Wilson of "finding war abhorrent". However, history shows us that after Wilson's practice war in Mexico and his entrance into WWI on our country's behalf, he apparently didn't find it so abhorrent as to avoid it. The sentence that makes it so personal for me is: "Neither Theodore Roosevelt's son Quentin, who was to die in a dogfight over France, nor the old Bull Moose himself who was to die in grief not long thereafter, would survive Wilson's abhorrence of war."

It makes you wonder how gung-ho our President would be to wage war if every time he did so his own daughters were enlisted to be on the front lines. War seems easy to wage if someone else's children are fighting it.

Anyway, I digress. It was a great read and I'm glad to have the opportunity to visit and re-visit with a writer of Doctorow's talent. I am looking forward to hosting him this spring. I am also looking forward to hosting Spring (I am soooo over winter).

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