Creationists

Creationists 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 Andre 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 PreciseIn 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

E L Doctorow s works of fiction include Homer Langley, The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidentia

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  • Hardcover
  • 192 pages
  • Creationists
  • E.L. Doctorow
  • English
  • 28 July 2017
  • 9781400064953

10 thoughts on “Creationists

  1. says:

    If you pick up this book expecting E.L Doctorow to weigh in on intelligent design or other anti Darwinian controversies you ll be disappointed It s a book of essays mostly about literature Poe, Melville, Twain, Malraux, Kleist, Kafka, et al Doctorow calls it a modest celebration of the creative act Creationists is a whimsical title Doctorow doesn t have much in common with the creationists who use the Bible to make an end run around science But he does give his collection a biblical structure It begins with an essay on the book of Genesis and ends with an apocalypse, an essay on the threat of nuclear holocaust And he does sense that creativity has a fundamental mysteriousness about it As he puts it, the act of writing, when it is going well, seems no than the dutiful secretarial response to a silent dictation This idea of the seeming autonomy of the imagination gets its strongest expression not in an essay on literature but in one on science, Einstein Seeing the Unseen Einstein s theory of relativity was an arduous work of self expression no less than that of a great writer or painter, Doctorow says, referring to the occasion of lightning clarity when that formula E mc2 wrote itself in his brain, the moment of creative crisis, the eureka moment On the analogy of the cosmic creative moment known as the Big Bang, Doctorow calls this the Little Bang of the writer s or scientist s inspiration, in which, in the writer s case, from the slightest bit of material a whole novelistic world is created And he notes that the writers of the ancient texts, the sacred texts of our religions were so awed by the mystery of their own creative process that they attributed the Little Bang of their own written cosmologies to God From Welcome to Hard Times to The March, and especially in such novels as The Book of Daniel, Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, Doctorow s own creativity has been fired by American history, by the West, the Civil War, the Cold War, by gangsters and rebels and immigrants So some of the most provocative things he has to say in these essays are about the writer s relationship to America or in the case of Franz Kafka, to Amerika, a novel that foundered because Kafka s claustrophobic Old World imagination was stymied by the immensity of the country As Doctorow says, Kafka held his book together as long as he d ignored the true scale of the American continent, but the minute he tried to fold our vast openness into his conceit he was finished But even American writers come to grief Harriet Beecher Stowe may have touched the American conscience with Uncle Tom s Cabin, but Doctorow faults the book for the implicit racism of Stowe s stereotypes of black people It is an indication of how tortuous is the moral progress of a culture where even the religiously driven protest, the aesthetically organized act of moral intellect, assumes the biases of the system it would overthrow And Stowe is not the only transgressor when it comes to racial stereotyping that ironically works against the author s message Doctorow faults Mark Twain for letting Tom Sawyer take over the latter part of Huckleberry Finn this is terrible for American literature, he says, not only because it turns a grown up book into juvenile fiction, but also because it weakens the rapport between Huck and Jim And the portrayal of Jim troubles him as much as Stowe s stereotyping Huck, Doctorow notes, struggles against the white s of his time to help the black man, Jim, escape from slavery, but it is Huck s progenitor Twain himself who portrays Jim, in minstrelese, as a gullible black child man led by white children Doctorow rejects Hemingway s famous assertion All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn Instead, he says, It begins with Moby Dick, the book that swallowed European civilization whole The essay on Moby Dick may be the best in the book, exuberant cheerleading for Melville s daunting masterpiece I don t know any other writer in history as uncannily able to parody Shakespeare at moments to be equal to him with his monologues and scenes, but also to so successfully adopt the social structuring of his characters, their hierarchies of rank, comedy, and tragedy, their parallel relationships to those in the master s plays, he writes Throughout the book, Doctorow reminds us of the necessity of fiction, that Stories connect the visible with the invisible, the present with the past They propose life as something of moral consequence Stories were the first repositories of human knowledge They were as important to survival as a spear or a hoe This book is also a reminder, if one is needed, that good storytellers often make very good critics The essays in Creationists are probing, subtle and smart You might even say that they re intelligently designed.

  2. says:

    Why is there such a strong anti intellectual strain in America America seems forever fixated on emotion, and that fixation discourages deepening wisdom The hurry to do something makes the delay of developing a philosophy almost sinful It s just a hypothesis, and books like the Creationists try to slow time down, briefly, to offer testimonials in favour of American intellectual life It s not an easy task, but Doctorow succeeds by giving it to us in all its messiness At heart this book is about the act of artistic creation anti evolutionists were bound to be disappointed It s a life outside of life, a choice that means everything, in ways other choices do not To be reminded that Americans can claim that messy experimental novel Moby Dick that we can claim the mystic and reclusive Poe that we ve a history of pushing up against racism even as we seemed to accept it as imperfect as that effort has been , this matters because it offers some identity we can point to beyond the surface level awareness, full of misinformation, we seem unable to escape Having a literary tradition is not icing it s the feast, the wine, the beauty of life The rest is as Austen said, busy nothings Let s have of these books And a tradition worth reflecting on If you re reading this, I suppose it continues with you and me Welcome, have a seat A

  3. says:

    A collection of Doctorow s incisive and thought provoking essays on the art of fiction, with a brilliant introduction on writing in which he asks Why compose fiction when you could be devoting your life to your appetites Why wrestle with a book when you could be amassing a fortune Why write when you could be shooting someone

  4. says:

    Doctorow s essays on the creative process, as exemplified through the lives of writers, are lively and enlightening Doctorow s prose is always elegant, his insights entertaining I particularly liked the essays on Dos Passos, Hemingway, and Kafka s Amerika.

  5. says:

    First time reading Doctorow his essays read like a lit crit academic attempting to distill his discipline s high brow ideas into quotidian language for the common man The bland result satisfies no one, I imagine.

  6. says:

    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 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.

  7. says:

    The brevity of these essays doesn t prevent E L Doctorow Ragtime The March, 1 2 Selection Nov Dec 2005 from writing with strength and intensity, though it does occasionally make it hard to feel deeply engaged by the material Doctorow treats his fellow authors with uniform respect, one of several ways that he differs from writers who focus on literary criticism His approach is frequently both analytic and personal as he discusses the ways each creation is assembled and explores his own connections with it Written clearly and with passion, this collection will please both casual readers and those who share Doctorow s deep and abiding love for great creations and fascination with their creatorsThis is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  8. says:

    This book is a fun and stimulating rummage through a variety of storytellers mostly 19th and 20th century Americans as a collection of short essays emphasizing their contributions as well as their short comings Doctorow s is a shrewd, learned eye, and he is decisive and forceful in his pronouncements While I respect the insight of his gray haired eminence, he upset me in a few parts of this book with his tone and dismissiveness of certain elements of particular authors work that I would defend I mean he really takes Poe to the woodshed before dusting him off and giving him back a seat at the table But such is the nature of a deeper conversation about books and what they mean because disagreement forces us to re evaluate our values and interpretations, giving our literary notions nuance and ultimately strength.

  9. says:

    The title is maybe just there to get your attention It s not a religious diatribe However, he does open with an essay on Genesis, namely the story problem in Genesis What story could these authors come up that would explain their world And he closes with an essay on the possibility of a nuclear holocaust which fits with our modern version of Judgment Day But despite these touches of religion in the book ends, all Doctorow claims he means by creationists are those who create.The book doesn t get much love and the audio version gets comments about how he can put you to sleep, since he reads himself Knowing that may have made me patient with it What I got out of it was several terrific essays on mostly 19th century and early 20th century American writers His essays on Genesis, Moby Dick, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos stood out.

  10. says:

    I really enjoyed this collection of essays about books and authors and a few other topics It helped that Doctorow s subject matter fit my interests pretty exactly he wrote about a few books like Moby Dick that are among my favorites, some others that I ve been meaning to read or which I ve now moved up on the to read list Arrowsmith, for example, and the Rhodes books about the making of the A bomb and H bomb , and some others which are not really favorites of mine but which I find interesting and have been reading plenty of anyway Arthur Miller, although seeing, not reading Mostly I found the essays thought provoking though often a little shorter than I wished they were enough to get you to wish there was So that s not a bad thing at all, really.

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