84-year old E.L. Doctorow, author of ‘Ragtime,’ ‘Billy Bathgate, dies in New York

Image from http://www.rte.ie/

Image from http://www.rte.ie/

E.L. Doctorow made raves as an author in his late middle age. A rare breed of American writer, he is also a conscientious citizen and a solitary inventor. He got jeered for his open letter to then-President George H.W. Bush, where he appealed him not to attack Iran. In a commencement speech at Hofstra University on Long Island, he castigated the 2nd President Bush and the 2nd Iraq War and studied the chief executive’s role in American culture in 1992, as the first President George Bush debated with Democrat Bill Clinton.

Over the course of 50 years, Doctorow authored several novels, with settings in the 1800s to modern times and in and around New York City. His novels feature a mixture of fictional and historical characters. In his novel “The March”, he brought to mind the Civil War and described the post-Civil period in “The Waterworks”. “Billy Bathgate,” “World’s Fair,” and “Loon Lake” were set in the 1930s, while “The Book of Daniel” has the Cold War as its setting. Doctorow’s blockbuster was the influential “Ragtime,” set on the 20th century. It earned millions, was filmed in 1981 and staged as a musical in 1998. In a 1997 interview with Variety, just before the opening of the musical, Doctorow said that he like the musical version more than the film because it captured the spirit of his writing.

His other novels were made into films, including “Welcome to Hard Times” in 1967, and “Billy Bathgate” in 1991, where Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman starred.

Doctorow received many prizes that include the National Book Critics Circle award, the National Humanities Medal and National Book Awards for both honorary and competitive categories.

A frequent contributor to The Nation, he wrote that the president is the craftsperson of nationalism, saying that the country is reformed spiritually with every new president. He wrote, “I would want a presidential temperament keen with a love of justice and with the capacity to recognize the honor of humbled and troubled people.”

President Barack Obama commended Doctorow on Twitter “as one of the greatest American novelists,” mentioning that he learned so much from Doctorow’s books.

Doctorow was an instructor at Princeton University, Yale University Drama School, University of California, Irvine and the Sarah Lawrence College.

Born on January 6, 1931 in New York, Doctorow was named after American author, poet Edgar Allan Poe. He got married in 1954 to Helen Setzer, with whom he had a son and two daughters. Doctorow’s son, Richard, told New York Times that he died because of complications due to lung cancer Tuesday in Manhattan at age 84.


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