Known for his philosophical probings, the subtlety and variety of his prose style, and his unusual use of historical figures in fictional works, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow is the author of eight novels, including the critically acclaimed "Ragtime" (1975) and "Billy Bathgate" (1989).
"What make Doctorow our most exciting historical novelist, aside form sheer talent and audacity, is his perception that history can only be reconstructed, never re-experienced," writes Johathan Franzen in the Los Angeles Time Book Review.
Written while Doctorow was a Guggenheim fellow and a Creative Artists Service fellow, "Ragtime" took the literary world by storm. Set in the decade prior to World War I, the novel fetures an array of historical figures that include Houdini, William Howard Taft, J.P. Morgan, Sigmund Freud and others. Historic and imaginative events are woven so skillfully that by the end of the novel the nature of historical truth is called into question.
"‘Ragtime’ is almost like a tapestry actually," said Doctorow. "And if you pull out any one of the threads, the whole piece just goes limp and collapses."
The novel received the first National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976 and the Arts and Letters Award given by the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters.
"Ragtime: The Musical," currently running on Broadway, received a host of awards including four Tony awards and five Drama Desk awards. Time Magazine called it "the number one theatrical event of the year."
Set in 1930s-era New York, "Billy Bathgate" is the story of 15-year-old Billy Behan’s initiation into the world of organized crime. It is a "grand entertainment that is also a triumphant work of art," writes Pete Hamill in the Washington Post Book World. The novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, William Dean Howells Medal and National Book Award nomination, all in 1990.
Other novels by Doctorow are: "Welcome to Hard Times" (1960); "Big as Life" (1966); "The Book of Daniel" (1971); "Loon Lake" (1980); the National Book Award winning "World’s Fair" (1985); "The Waterworks" (1994); and "E.L. Doctorow: Three Complete Novels" (1994). He also has written a play, "Drinks before Dinner" (1979); a book of short fiction, "Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella" (1984); and a work of nonfiction, "Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution: Selected Essays, 1977-92" (1993).
Doctorow, who is a Glucksman Professor of English and American Letters at New York University, was born in 1931 in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1952 with honors from Kenyon College, and continued his study with graduate work at Columbia University. He is a member of the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters. He currently resides and works in New York City.