On July 21st the world lost an important modern literary figure, E.L. Doctorow at the age of 84. Best known for his historical fiction such as ‘Ragtime’, ‘The March’ and ‘Billy Bathgate’ Doctorow was also an essayist and editor. Doctorow’s accolades include a National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards and a Library of Congress Prize for American Literature. In 2012 he was inducted as a member of the New York Writers Hall of Fame.
Born Edgar Lawrence Doctorow on January 6th, 1931 in the Bronx, New York. He was named after Edgar Allen Poe. In grade school he published his first effort called ‘The Beetle’ in the school’s literary magazine ‘Dynamo’ inspired after reading Kafka. He attended Kenyon College majoring in philosophy. In 1952 he graduated and went on to do his graduate studies at Columbia but was drafted after only completing one year. He served in the United States Army from 1954-1955 stationed in Germany.
When Doctorow returned to the states he began work on his first novel which would become ‘Welcome to Hard Times’. Published in 1960 it was received with positive reviews however did not lead additional work. He would spend nine years as an editor before pursuing writing as a full time career. He worked with authors like Ian Flemming and Ayn Rand as well as James Baldwin and Norman Mailer. In 1971 his next novel ‘The Book of Daniel’ was published. From then on he wrote and published continuously and worked as a professor at several universities.
Doctorow’s career has yielded twelve novels, four collections of stories as well as eight collections of essays and numerous stories published in magazines and literary journals. He passed away Tuesday after a battle with lung cancer. His literary legacy will be felt for years to come and his influence on storytelling and the historical narrative have set the standard for future novelists.
Landmark Books has a large selection of books by E.L. Doctorow so if you’re not familiar with his work come in and take a look today.