E. L. Doctorow

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There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.

Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (born 6 January 1931) is an American author of several critically acclaimed novels that blend history and social criticism. Currently, he holds the Glucksman Chair in American Letters at New York University.

Quotes[edit]

History is the present. That’s why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.
  • Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
  • Planning to write is not writing. Outlining ...researching ...talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.
    • The New York Times (20 October 1985)
  • There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.
    • New York Times Book Review (27 January 1988)
  • You can’t remember sex. You can remember the fact of it, and recall the setting, and even the details, but the sex of the sex cannot be remembered, the substantive truth of it, it is by nature self-erasing, you can remember its anatomy and be left with a judgment as to the degree of your liking of it, but whatever it is as a splurge of being, as a loss, as a charge of the conviction of love stopping your heart like your execution, there is no memory of it in the brain, only the deduction that it happened and that time passed, leaving you with a silhouette that you want to fill in again.
    • Billy Bathgate (1989), Ch. 16
  • Murders are exciting and lift people into a heart-beating awe as religion is supposed to do, after seeing one in the street young couples will go back to bed and make love, people will cross themselves and thank God for the gift of their stuporous lives, old folks will talk to each other over cups of hot water with lemon because murders are enlivened sermons to be analyzed and considered and relished, they speak to the timid of the dangers of rebellion, murders are perceived as momentary descents of God and so provide joy and hope and righteous satisfaction to parishioners, who will talk about them for years afterward to anyone who will listen.
    • Billy Bathgate (1989), Ch. 19
  • Like art and politics, gangsterism is a very important avenue of assimilation into society.
    • International Herald Tribune (1 October 1990)

Interview in Writers at Work (1988)[edit]

  • Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
  • It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
    • On his writing style
  • In the twentieth century one of the most personal relationships to have developed is that of the person and the state... It’s become a fact of life that governments have become very intimate with people, most always to their detriment.
  • History is the present. That’s why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.
  • I try to avoid experience if I can. Most experience is bad.
  • The writer isn’t made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.

External links[edit]

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