Creationists: selected essays, 1993-2006
E. L. Doctorow is acclaimed internationally for such novels as Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and The March. Now here are Doctorow’s rich, revelatory essays on the nature of imaginative thought. In Creationists, Doctorow considers creativity in its many forms: from the literary (Melville and Mark Twain) to the comic (Harpo Marx) to the cosmic (Genesis and Einstein). As he wrestles with the subjects that have teased and fired his own imagination, Doctorow affirms the idea that “we know by what we create.”
Just what is Melville doing in Moby-Dick? And how did The Adventures of Tom Sawyer impel Mark Twain to radically rewrite what we know as Huckleberry Finn? Can we ever trust what novelists say about their own work? How could Franz Kafka have written a book called Amerika without ever leaving Europe? In posing such questions, Doctorow grapples with literary creation not as a critic or as a scholar–but as one working writer frankly contemplating the work of another. It’s a perspective that affords him both protean grace and profound insight.
Among the essays collected here are Doctorow’s musings on the very different Spanish Civil War novels of Ernest Hemingway and André Malraux; a candid assessment of Edgar Allan Poe as our “greatest bad writer”; a bracing analysis of the story of Genesis in which God figures as the most complex and riveting character. Whether he is considering how Harpo Marx opened our eyes to surrealism, the haunting photos with which the late German writer W. G. Sebald illustrated his texts, or the innovations of such
literary icons as Heinrich von Kleist, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Sinclair Lewis, Doctorow is unfailingly generous, shrewd, attentive, surprising, and precise.
In examining the creative works of different times and disciplines, Doctorow also reveals the source and nature of his own artistry. Rich in aphorism and anecdote, steeped in history and psychology, informed by a lifetime of reading and writing, Creationists opens a magnificent window into one of the great creative minds of our time.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Doctorow's collection of essays--mostly on authors and their works, with a couple of notable exceptions--is a fine idea, but not very compellingly executed. In any individual essay, his tone might be described as lofty, or academic. But consistent as it is throughout the collection, it takes on a rather imperious, even arrogant cast. These are a series of judgemental (rather than critical) essays, most of them composed in the thoroughly presumptuous first-person plural. Do "we" really see these things this way? Yes, we do; E.L. Doctorow said so. It's probably no coincidence, also, that Doctorow concerns himself almost exclusively with men in this collection (again, with a notable exception), and that when he does speak of women (even in the aforementioned exception) he does so dismissively. He tosses away Dickinson in half a sentence. I'm nor a particularly ardent fan of hers, but I have to admit that he never won me back over after that. I can't recommend the book, but since I keep mentioning exceptions, let me carve one out. The penultimate essay on Einstein is very good. It's insightful and illuminating, and ironically tells more about the act of writing than any of the previous essays--all of which are devoted to literature. This essay also eschews the plural form of the first person which I mentioned above, and that helps immensely.
Review: Creationists: Selected Essays: 1993-2006User Review - Goodreads
Doctorow's collection of essays--mostly on authors and their works, with a couple of notable exceptions--is a fine idea, but not very compellingly executed. In any individual essay, his tone might be ...