Ragtime

by E. L. Doctorow

Hardcover, 1974

Call number

FIC DOC

Collection

Publication

Random (1974), Edition: First Edition

Description

Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence. From the Trade Paperback edition..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I loved a music survey course I was required to take in college. I learned to love Josquin Des Prez and Monteverdi and Bach and Mozart and a whole passel of composers until we reached Schoenberg, when my first thought was "You've Got to be kidding; this is garbage." I felt the same way upon reading
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the very first paragraph of Doctorow's Ragtime. Well, except at least Schoenberg was original, while with Doctorow I could see the modernist strands of Hemingwayesque uber-spare prose, Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness, and whoever is responsible for making it a sign of genius to omit quotation marks. Truly, you can tell I think if this novel is for you just from that first paragraph.

It might sound perverse to take a book's measure from it's first paragraph--but it was a long paragraph--three pages long. We're introduced to the central family of the novel, referred to only as "Father," "Mother," "Grandfather," "Little Boy," and most important, "Mother's Younger Brother." It's not a unified topic-sentence king of paragraph either, but this long incoherent meandering melange mentioning, along with the fictional family, a potpourri of historical figures from the turn of the 20th Century. Here's a snatch of that paragraph that was typical of the syntax: "On the roof. There were screams. Evelyn fainted." Oh, and not only wasn't dialogue not offset by quotation points, but unlike Cormac McCarthy or Charles Frazier, Doctorow doesn't even deign to set each speaker off with different paragraphs.

I found this book an unreadable mess. One of the worse novels I've ever tried reading. I guess I shouldn't be surprised some claim it to be great literature given what I've seen praised, but anyone who tried to tell me they enjoyed this with a straight face? I'd back away slowly.
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LibraryThing member browner56
It is the turn of the 20th century and the United States is struggling to find its identity. It is a country that is still recovering from its own recent Civil War and has not yet entered the new era of worldwide conflict that will come within the decade. The gap between the “haves” and “have
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nots” is wide and daily life is often marked by rampant social, racial, and political unrest. It is also a time of remarkable intellectual creation and productivity, with people such as Henry Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, and Pierpont Morgan leading the way.

“Ragtime” is an ambitious book that attempts to mix the history of the times with three different fictional story lines. Set largely in and around New York City, the author haphazardly mingles the narratives of an upper-middle class family (Father, Mother, Younger Brother, the Boy), an immigrant family (Tateh, Mameh, the Girl), and a jazz musician and his fiancée (Colehouse Walker, Sarah) with a dizzying array of real-life characters, including Ford, Morgan, Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, and Admiral Peary. Unfortunately, none of these invented tales is particularly compelling and the one involving Colehouse Walker is both overwritten and completely implausible.

Although widely regarded as one of the best American novels of the last 100 years, I must confess that I found reading it to be a mildly disappointing experience. The problem, I think, is that the author seems so committed to working into the story as many cultural touchstones as possible that the fictional elements seem underdeveloped by comparison. At slightly more than 250 pages, the book is really too slight for its intended purpose; it felt as if the reader was being rushed through a history lesson at the expense of character development and the plot. While the historical references were interesting—this is an understudied era, at least by me—I did not come to care much at all about the fates of any of the characters. So, while successful in teaching me something about the events of the ragtime era in America, the book ultimately fell short of being a satisfying literary adventure.
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LibraryThing member .Monkey.
"Father, normally a resolute person, suddenly foundered in his soul. A weird despair seized him. The wind came up, the sky had turned overcast, and the great ocean began to tumble and break upon itself as if made of slabs of granite and sliding terraces of slate."

Ragtime is rather a mix of people
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and situations and stories, that wind intricately together and apart to form something that is "full of [...] subtle pleasure," as the back blurb says. It's an odd disparate mix of folks—poor tenement families and bourgeois and shockingly rich, immigrants and settled Americans and former slaves, blacks and whites and, socialists and conservatives and communists—and how their paths cross and lives intermingle. With this eclectic cast of characters, all walks of life are explored to some extent. Each has at least a couple chapters here and there, and each is portrayed with a poignant depth. It's rather amazing how many exceptionally different people Doctorow manages to fit in, without making the story seem at all contrived.

"This was a most robust composition, a vigorous music that roused the senses and never stood still a moment. The boy perceived it as light touching various places in space, accumulating in intricate patterns until the entire room was made to glow with its own being."

The way it was written puts me in mind of Gore Vidal's Creation, with the insertion of historical characters into realistic settings of a fiction novel. It's really hard to explain much of the book without giving things away, though; plus the back blurb on my copy merely says when it's set, that the lives of some families become entwined, lists some names that make appearances, and then says it's so original and full of imagination and pleasure that to describe it further would dilute the joy of reading it, and that "nothing quite like it has ever been written before." So I'm going to heed their advice and stop trying to figure out what I can write about it. I will simply say it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

"They would never let me out of here, you know that. And if they did they would spare no effort to hunt me down. And everyone with me would be hunted down. And you would all die. To what purpose? For what end?"
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LibraryThing member Larou
E.L. Doctorow used to be an author I had never read but was quite certain I would not like. I’m not even sure what the reason for that was – I saw the movie Daniel and disliked it, and maybe transferred that dislike to the author of the novel (The Book of Daniel) the film was based on (and yes,
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I’m aware I should have known better, but we’re talking about my ca. twenty year old self here who was a lot quicker to judge than I am today), or maybe I considered him to conventional during my hardcore modernist / postmodernist phase, or maybe it was something else altogether I cannot now remember.

Somewhat less vague is the reason why I got interested in him again after all, namely me stumbling across various mentions of Ragtime as a novel important for the development of the historical novel in the 20th century. As I have always had a soft spot for historical novels, and an interest in how a genre that belongs so distinctly to the 19th century and its unshaken belief in the capability of fiction to represent the real has managed to not only survive into the 20th and 21st centuries but also has re-invented itself several times over to remain alive and relevant. While that had me teetering on the brink of reading a novel by him, it was his recent death that pushed me over, with its rather uncomfortable reminder that I am slowly but steadily running out of time to read and so had better get to it.

Ragtime was named, as Wikipedia informs me, for “its syncopated, or ‘ragged’, rhythm” and one can see after reading just a few pages how this fits the book, in particular its language. It is written mostly in short, simple sentences, in a very matter-of-fact style; and several references to an anonymous “we” that is collecting and presenting evidence made me think of a chronicle or some kind of report. But again and again there are interspersed between the plain statements longer sentences, where language takes off and becomes fanciful, lyrical even, disrupting the steady flow of facts, or – to stay in the metaphor – syncopating them, introducing an off-beat element. And also pretty quickly it becomes obvious how this fits the content of the novel as well when on the unblemished white of the petit-bourgeois world there are more and more outbreaks of colour, immigrants and negroes disrupting the orderly world of the Anglo-Saxon middle classes.

There seems to me to be a certain double entendre in the novel’s title – “ragtime” not only as the musical genre of that name, but also literally as a time of rags; very early in the novel one of its many protagonists (if one wants to call them that, more on that later) sees a “rag ship” coming into harbour filled with dark-skinned immigrants just as he leaves on an expedition for the white wastes of the North Pole. It’s maybe a bit too blatant, but one cannot deny that the irony that Doctorow has arranged here is quite exquisite. Rags, then, are everything that is outside of the orderly (and always immaculately dressed) white middle classes, the immigrants, the negroes, the working classes (one also can’t but thing of the Lumpenproletariat which actually might be translated literally as “rag proletariat”). Doctorow sets his novel at the start of the 20th century, at a time when all kinds of social unrest were fermenting, when Unions and socialists (actual socialists, that is, not what passes for it these days in the muddled minds of most Republicans) still had a public voice in the USA, and where in fact many people were expecting the US to be the first country to have a Communist revolution (a much more likely candidate than Russia).

I think what Doctorow tried here is to write an anti-Bourgeois novel – quite an ambitious project considering how much the bourgeoisie has made the novel form its own during the 18th and 19th centuries. And his formally most audacious move in achieving this is to remove the individual protagonist; Ragtime is very far from being the Bildungsroman of a single consciousness rising from immaturity to becoming a responsible citizen, but instead presents a whole host of protagonists (I did not bother to count, but it is an astonishing number for such a comparatively short novel) without favouring any of them but instead jumping from character to character gradually coalescing the threads into some kind of whole by letting them criss-cross each other again and again.

Which might not appear all that dissimilar from what Dos Passos did in Manhattan Transfer, but Doctorow goes a step father – while Dos Passos has a multitude of protagonists they still are individuals with their own, distinct personalities. The fictional protagonists in Ragtime, on the other and, do for the most part not even have names but are family archetypes, Father, Mother, Younger Brother etc. Only very few fictional characters have names, and they without exception are non-white, non-middle class like the Jew Tateh or the negro Coalhouse Walker jr. “Coalhouse” by the way being very close to how an English speaker would pronounce “Kohlhaas,” the titular protagonist of a novella by German 19th century writer Heinrich von Kleist which apparently was the original inspiration for Doctorow’s novel (and there are some interesting connections to be made between the two, not just the – very obvious – similarities in plot). Coalhouse’s identity is borrowed, then, and he remains (just like Kleist’s creation) a very ambivalent character – it never becomes quite clear whether he is confident in his identity as a person of colour or simply imitating the white man.

While Doctorow keeps his fictional characters for the most part anonymous archetypes, there still is a huge amount of name-dropping in Ragtime, as he introduces a large cast of non-fictional, historical figures. The list includes people like Sigmund Freud, Pierpoint Morgan, Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini. By turning them into characters in a novel, Doctorow of course fictionalises them, but at the same time he also short-circuits his novel with history. He is of course not the first to have historical characters mix with his fictional ones, that tradition goes as far back as to the very beginning of the genre, to Walter Scott. But I don’t think any other writer has done it with quite the enthusiastic abandon of Ragtime, where we get a veritable parade of them, marching to the novel’s ragged, syncopated rhythm.

The best description of Ragtime is actually to be found in the novel itself, and as it not only precisely captures its feeling and structure but also is beautifully written, I’m going to deviate from my usual habits and quote a bit in closing this review:

“Coalhouse Walker Jr. turned back to the piano and said ‘The Maple Leaf.’ Composed by the great Scott Joplin. The most famous rag of all rang through the air. The pianist sat stiffly at the keyboard, his long dark hands with their pink nails seemingly with no effort producing the clusters of syncopating chords and the thumping octaves. This was a most robust composition, a vigorous music that roused the senses and never stood still a moment. The boy perceived it as light touching various places in space, accumulating in intricate patterns until the entire room was made to glow with its own being.”
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LibraryThing member lsh63
Excellent historical fiction that weaves together fictional characters : a black Harlem musician, a Jewish peddler, and rebellious young WASP from a middle class family, along with real life figures J.P. Morgan, Harry Houdini, and Henry Ford.

The beginning was a little odd for me, but I soon was
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able to keep up with the various characters and accept the factual content mixed with the author's fantasy.
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LibraryThing member MaureenCean
My first 5 star book of the year, and that's not to imply there will be many - I checked and my last one was in May 2013. I found the style of Doctorow's writing to be smooth and engaging, and although I would usually say that WWII is my favorite era to read about, the time just prior to WWI is
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emerging now as a close second. I really get a kick out of historical fiction that winds the lives of real historical figures in with those of the fictional characters. Is it possible that the rate at which famous or notorious persons come into ocntact with this family is almost a little too much? Yes, but I won't complain. Is the end maybe a touch too contrived? Maybe, but it is fun. I also enjoyed that it reminded me of other books I have read from that era that included some similar events, such as The Fountainhead and the Interpretation of Murder. I am going to get this on audio now for my husband, and check out some of his other works. I already own Homer & Langley.
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LibraryThing member edwinbcn
Traditionally, historical fiction places fictional characters and fictional events against a background of historical fact, or historical figures against a historical background embellished with fictional detail. Suspense is achieved by expectation and the enjoyment of what the reader already knows
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about history and the new elements introduced in the novel. E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime is quite different, in the sense that historical and fictional characters and events intermingle in a way which blurs the division between history and fiction.

Few readers will be fully aware of American history between 1906 and 1914, the historical period in which the novel is set, although this may be different for future readers, once this period is more closely studied and more history books appear about the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. Still, many historical characters in the novel are familiar, such as Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. They also help to anchor the story in time. Other, less well-known historical characters can be identified by the way they are described, such as Emma Goldman, and Evelyn Nesbit. The fictional characters, mostly having no name, merely indicated by Father / Tateh, Mother / Mameh, Mother's Younger Brother / Little Girl, makes them iconic or everyman characters.

With limited knowledge of the period, the reader is at the mercy of the author. Some events are likely and believable, such as Emma Goldman's lecture and the ensuing riot. However, other events are highly unlikely, and typical of postmodern fiction, such as the pornographic scene in which Mother's Younger Brother follows and peeps from a closet at Emma Goldman and Evelyn Nesbit's lesbian romp (p.54). The history of the third family, the African-Americans, is confusing because they have names, which pulls them into the realm of the "historical figures" while obviously their actions are fictitious.

While the non-academic reader has some urge, initially, to look up characters, -- now, in the age of Internet and Wikipedia so much easier than in 1975, when the novel was first published, the myriad of characters and events is so dense that one is coerced into giving up that urge and go with the flow of the novel, wondering about the likelihood of events. Reading in that mode, the novel's sweeping scale makes for a very enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
This book, set in the first two decades of the twentieth century is excellent telling of American culture through three fictional families but with so many actual personalities that it almost was like reading a newspaper. The first of the three families was white, living in New Rochelle, New York
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and only designated as Father, Mother, mother’s Younger Brother, the Boy and Grandfather representing the upper middle class, the second representing the immigrants were a Jewish family known as Tateh and Mameh (Yiddish for father and mother) and the little girl, and the third represented by the “Negro” ragtime musician Coalhouse Walker and his common-law wife Sara and their child. The last two family groups were largely invisible groups in America during this time known as the Progressive Era. The opening remarks by the narrator “There were no Negroes. There were no Immigrants,” reflects the selective vision of the upper middle class. Doctorow includes such personages as Booker T. Washington, Evelyn Nesbit (a Gibson Girl), Architect Stanford White and Harry K Thaw, J.P. Morgan, Ford and Harry Houdini giving the novel rich history. Music (Ragtime) often provides us with a picture of a time in history such as “Acid Rock Era” or the “Jazz Age”. The title centers the book on the African Americans and others that are marginalized such as the Jewish immigrants and political radicals like Emma Goldman. Doctorow has such a way of telling his stories, there never really is a protagonist. You might say that the culture is the protagonist just as the March was the protagonist in his book The March. Partly his story telling reminds me of Michener because of how much historical events are included in the story. If you like historical fiction, I recommend this book. The back cover says that this is “a joy to read and it reads like a streak” and it does.
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LibraryThing member jesssh
A beautifully written book that weaves together stories of original characters and notable persons from early twentieth-century America. Although it involves many characters and often moves from one to another from one short chapter to the next, Doctorow's style and story make it easy for the
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reader to keep up. One is left satisfied and curious about the age and its people, and satisfied with the time devoted to a good story.
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LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
Certainly one of the finest books I've ever read. Doesn't happen very often. Not long ago I read a book called Carter Beats the Devil: that was very good, and it wants to be this book when it grows up.
LibraryThing member bell7
An unnamed family (Father, Mother, Grandfather, Mother's Younger Brother, and the boy) live in New Rochelle, NY at the turn of the century. Their family intersects with a variety of historical people from Houdini to the anarchist Emma Goldman and more.

This is the type of book you have to get into
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the rhythm and let the words and images carry you along in the story. It covers a lot of ground, mostly 1902 to 1912, with a bit of a lead up into World War 1. It's less about the characters than it is the changing of an era, and a growing awareness in one family that America is not necessarily the one their set has been accustomed to: "Everyone wore white in summer. Tennis racquets were hefty and the racquet faces elliptical. There was a lot of sexual fainting. There were no Negros. There were no immigrants" (3-4). It's a very well-crafted, intricate book and blends fact and fiction seamlessly. Some of the most unbelievable aspects were, in fact, historical - and made some of the fictional fabrications that much more believable. "Ragtime" comes into play both in the music of the time period and the other major fictional character, Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a black pianist who swings into this family's life and leaves it changed forever. I'm not really sure how the sex scenes fit into the story and found them a little out of place, personally, but I'm looking forward to talking about the book in my book club tonight.
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LibraryThing member cestovatela
In Ragtime, E.L. Doctrow explores the full scope of American society at the turn of the century. His characters include an upper middle class family, polar explorers, new Jewish immigrants, Harry Houdini, JP Morgan, Henry Ford and a black man trying to climb the socioeconomic ladder. Watching these
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segments of society interact and collide is a powerful statement on the making of America, but this book feels too much like a literary construct. With each character standing in for the race or class s/he represents, it's hard to forge a real connection with the book. I read to find out what Doctrow had to say, not because I cared about the characters.
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LibraryThing member dtn620
Like most Americans I’d like to use a time machine*, but unlike most Americans I know I would be horrified by what I saw as much, if not more than I’d be enamored with the times I’d visit in American (and world) history. For now, Ragtime is my time machine and happily Doctorow doesn’t hold
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up the past as a shining beacon, but rather gives us a glimpse into the lives of many Americans in the early 20th century. A story of wealth both non-existent and great, race, culture, success and failure Ragtime runs the gamut of American life blurring the real with the fictional. I couldn’t recommend in more.

*Have you ever noticed that in popular culture time machines are also place machines? Want to see Ancient Greece? Just hop into a time machine in urban Chicago (or wherever) and you’ll be delivered there. Presuming that time machines can only travel IN TIME, I feel there is an oft-unspoken danger of landing on something, or reforming(?) inside of something that existed in the past. Like in/on a tree, or in a body of water, or on a baby. This is clearly the first time I’ve really thought about time travel as depicted in popular culture, but it seems like this issue should be explored.
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LibraryThing member madepercy
This is exactly the type of novel I enjoy most. If I wear to sum it up succinctly, I would say it was the precursor to Forrest Gump but with multiple protagonists intertwined with historical events from the beginning of the twentieth century until the end of the Great War. I did not read about E.L.
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Doctorow until I had finished his work, and it was no surprise to find he was a professor of history. The incorporation of Harry Houdini as a character was cleverly done, as was the use of the nondescript "Family", "Father", "Mother", "Mother's Younger Brother" to leave one guessing at the true historical characters they were inspired by. There is definitely some merit to reading more of Doctorow's work and Ragtime is easily one of my favourite novels.
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LibraryThing member LarryDarrell
Hmmmm. Doctorow you say? I say he is a postmodern writer. I say he likes the creaky corners of american history. I say he likes midgets. I say he likes to write humorous scenes of masturbatory bliss. I say I'm drunk...

Just read it (or don't).
LibraryThing member OscarWilde87
Published in the 1970s, Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow is set in and around New York City about 1900. While it is a fictional novel it includes historical figures such as Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J. P. Morgan, and Booker T. Washington. But what is it about really? Actually, I can only give an attempt
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to answer this question. The narrator is a boy in his adolescence who talks about what is going on in his family, the members of which are aptly named 'Father', 'Mother', 'Grandfather' and 'Mother's Younger Brother'. But then again there is way more to the novel. This is especially true when an abandoned black baby comes into the family with his mother Sarah. Soon thereafter, Coalhouse Walker, a black musician, continually visits the family to see Sarah and the child. With the arrival of Coalhouse Walker the story slowly starts to unfold and the family's life is put to a test. One day, Walker is stopped on the street by a group of racist firemen who block his way and start to hassle him. They damage his car solely based on their belief that black people should not be wealthy. After this incident, Coalhouse seeks justice and wants to have his car restored to him. Since it is no use to trust in law enforcement and judicial assistance, Coalhouse Walker sees violence as his only means of exerting pressure on the city and to get his car back fully restored. He soon finds a group of followers, among them 'Younger Brother', who enter J. P. Morgan's library and threaten to blow it up.

While one could say much more about the plot of Ragtime, I find it rather hard to make up my mind of how I like it. Judging by my reading progress I'd say the novel became much more interesting, once the Coalhouse incident happened. At least that is when my reading pace started to pick up. Before that, the novel was not uninteresting but it was a bit tedious to read. Generally, there were a lot of episodes I liked, for example the one with Sigmund Freund and his colleague Jung who visit an amusement park in Coney Island. But then again there were also many parts I had to struggle through and which were just not my cup of tea. This is not so much due to the writing, which is simple at times but generally very readable, but more to the subject matter, I guess.

On the whole, because of its ups and downs, three stars.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Set in New York City during the early 1900s, Ragtime captures the mood of the city by placing a fictional family into circumstances and events of that era. They rub elbows with real figures from history, like the architect Stanhope White and financier Pierpont Morgan. The central conflict, however,
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deals with issues of race. A young black woman abandons her baby, and the family takes it in. They later provide shelter for the mother, get to know the baby’s father, and become embroiled in an escalating conflict with local authorities.

Throughout this novel, the family remains nameless; characters are referred to simply as Father, Mother, Mother’s Younger Brother, and the boy. It's an interesting technique which forces the reader to focus on other aspects of the story. Unfortunately the story itself never really grabbed me and the lack of character development created an emotional distance. I found some aspects of Ragtime intriguing, and appreciate the quality of the writing, but ultimately it fell a bit flat,
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LibraryThing member SwampIrish
I love Doctorow's prose and I love the period of time that this novel covers.
LibraryThing member amydross
A funny little book, written almost entirely in expostional narrative. There are many small (and sometimes dirty) pleasures available in this book, but what particularly won me over was the character of Coalhouse Walker, a man so proud and stubborn, with such an inflexible sense of justice that
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it's impossible not to all in love with him. One thing that puzzled me: there's a lot in this book about anarchism and socialism, and I feel like it's doing more than merely "giving a sense of the period". But I'm not quite sure what.
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LibraryThing member ehines
Fiction incorporating real historical figures and events has become commonplace these days. Perhaps even a bit tiresome. But when Ragtime was published the technique was still worthy of note, and Doctorow uses it with a delicate hand.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
At first, I didn't know what to make of this book; for the first fifty pages or so, I felt I was being presented with a collage of history and fiction, and too many characters to make sense of the novel as a whole when it came right down to it. Without my realizing it, though, the book suddenly
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came together into something completely different. The collage became a tapestry, and I hated having to put the book down. In the beginning, I hadn't expected to care at any point in the novel--the ultra-objective style of narration had left me feeling detached; sooner than later, though, I was swept up in the way that Doctorow had woven each character's story together with the world around them.

In the end, this was an incredibly touching and humorous novel, wonderful both for its reality and an odd sort of optimism that comes out by the conclusion (at least for this reader). As a statement on history and America, as an escape, and as a piece of art, this really is a wonderful novel and a deceptively quick journey. Absolutely recommended.
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LibraryThing member MariaKhristina
This book was a very easy read and I finished it in a couple of days. The author is a good story teller and is able to weave the lives of the characters together. It's historical fiction which is cool since you know that these characters exist and that there is a basis for them. Although other
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times I thought to myself "really, so and so just happens to be there!" I like how he deals with issues of race, class and radicalism although I wish Tahteh would have stayed a radical instead of *ahem* buying in. I laughed when he called Houdini last of the mother lovers. And i thought the Emma Goldman/Evelyn Nessbit rubdown was sexy. He also made me more interested in reading the writings of Emma Goldman.
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LibraryThing member dbeveridge
A seventies classic; a revelation in writing style for me. Though my enthusiasm has faded with time, it was a life-changer when I read it.
LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
Cleverly written novel that interweaves historical characters from the early 20th century such as Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, JP Morgan, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, etc., with that of a New Rochelle family comprised of Mother, Father, Younger Brother, Son. Also told is the story of a poor immigrant
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family: Mameh, Tateh and daughter and what befalls them on the streets of NY. The novel successfully captures the chaos of the early 20th century; the era known as Ragtime.
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LibraryThing member Ahloren
A beautiful quilt of lives smashed together in an era of change.

ISBN

0394469011 / 9780394469010
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