Creator of Worlds
E.L. Doctorow is dead at 84. The opening from his brilliant novel, Ragtime:
“In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York It was a three-story brown shingle with dormers, bay windows, and a screened porch. Stripped awnings shaded the windows. The family took possession of this stout manse on a sunny day in June and it seemed for some years thereafter that all their days would be warm and fair.”
Ragtime is a brilliant, brilliant novel. You should all read it. I think a lot of our issues today are present in the novel and in the time of the early 20th century.
What I like about this opening paragraph is that it creates and entire world and draws you in. You are introduced to the time, 1902. Some of the setting, a prosperous town in Westchester County, New York. The characters that inhabit the town and their aesthetic preferences and the images that you encounter in the world. They live in a little bubble where it “seemed” that everything would “be warm and fair.” But bubbles are not perfect and Bay Windows reveal a lot. Just a little bit way from this suburb and you have anarchists, gilded age bankers with penchants for mysticism, popular magicians who will always be outside looking in, income inequality, and the birth of American popular music as the title suggests. All will come crashing down on the allegorical world of Protestant Upper-Middle Class and Proper America.
So read this book! Read the Book of Daniel! Read Billy Bathgate!