Influential novelist E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, The March) died in New York on Tuesday, of complications from lung cancer. He was 84. The New York Times remembers the author:
The author of a dozen novels, three volumes of short fiction and a stage drama, as well as essays and commentary on literature and politics, Mr. Doctorow was widely lauded for the originality, versatility and audacity of his imagination.
Subtly subversive in his fiction — less so in his left-wing political writing — he consistently upended expectations with a cocktail of fiction and fact, remixed in book after book; with clever and substantive manipulations of popular genres like the Western and the detective story; and with his myriad storytelling strategies. Deploying, in different books, the unreliable narrator, the stream-of-consciousness narrator, the omniscient narrator and multiple narrators, Mr. Doctorow was one of contemporary fiction’s most restless experimenters.
Doctorow was born in New York in 1931 and named for another great writer, Edgar Allan Poe. From the NYT:
“Actually, he liked a lot of bad writers, but Poe was our greatest bad writer, so I take some consolation from that,” Mr. Doctorow said in 2008. “He died many years ago. My mother lived into her 90s, and I remember asking her in her old age — I finally dealt with the question of my name — “Do you and Dad know you named me after a drug-addicted, alcoholic delusional paranoid with strong necrophiliac tendencies?’ and she said, ‘Edgar, that’s not funny.’ ”
In a statement issued by his publisher and former employer, Random House, president and publisher Gina Centrello called Doctorow “one of the greatest creative minds of our time.”
“He was sharp and funny,” Centrello said, “vocal and opinionated, and he inspired readers with every book, every story, and every essay.”