Favorite Books: 2009:  90. Ragtime


“In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York.”

Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow

     Ragtime is one of my very favorite books,* and even though I’ve read it scads of times, I still enjoyed it and got something from my re-read, which is the point of the whole re-reading project, and thus was very nice.  And yet, I find that I don’t have much to say about it as I come to blog - I don’t feel particularly objective or critical - perhaps I’ve read and enjoyed the book too much to comment (not a problem I had with his Book of Daniel).  It’s the story of a family - an archetypal family at the turn of the century when “there were no Negro and there were no immigrants” and how as time passes they are overcome by the events of the new and tumultuous century.  Real historical figures are intertwined with Mother, Father, and Mother’s Younger Brother (in clever play on stereotype, the middle class white family is nameless, and the black and immigrant Jews have proper names).  The story is engrossing, as one black man’s outrage at the treatment of his car by racist hooligans becomes a stand against injustice, and the family is forced to grow up from their lavender twilight and face the reality of America (and the reader comes along for the ride).  It is simply written yet manages to evoke exactly the time period, when America seemed so new and exciting, but had so much wrong with it too.  And it does all this without being preachy, or tiresomely experimental  - it works just as well as a simple page turner.  Man, I do love this book - if you haven’t read it, you should.

*And, I love the musical, too, and it’s not often you can say a thing like that - usually adaptations let you down, or at worse are a draw, but I think that the musical, though different (it is much more optimistic than the book), adds to my appreciation of the text.  And it is so damn hummable!

Date/Place Completed: July 2009, D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions, Commuting Book, Re-Read

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017