Remembering E.L. Doctorow

Today the world mourns the loss of Edgar Lawrence Doctorow, a literary legend and virtuoso of the historical fiction genre. Known for blending fact with brilliantly realized fiction, Doctorow was one of modern literature's most experimental minds, capable of writing from nearly any voice or perspective. Here we remember this amazing talent, and share his work with the people of Chicago.

Doctorow was a sculptor of history, taking the record and shaping it, embellishing details too fine for the headlines of the day to catch. Doctorow's signature attention to detail often makes the reader feel like they are reliving the past, even when it is clearly fictionalized.

Doctorow's genius is in the wry treatment of this effort, a narrative grin aimed directly at the fourth wall. In World's Fair, Doctorow creates a child narrator who speaks with a gravitas and vocabulary reserved for philosophers and professors. Ragtime knits one family's history into a wider narrative populated by a panoply of historical figures (Booker T. Washington, Harry Houdini and Sigmund Freud, to name a few), many of whom seem to wink at the reader as they pass through the story. Andrew's Brain, Doctorow's most recent novel, is (quite literally) a cerebral exploration of mind and memory that challenges the reader to look at every story and recollection as a self-created artifact.


Although the world has lost an amazing talent, E.L. Doctorow left behind a legacy of brilliant and challenging work to inspire generations of readers and writers. Share your favorites in the comments below and help Chicago honor a literary leader.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library