Sunday, April 10, 2011

All the Time In the World by E.L. Doctrow

From Goodreads: From Ragtime and Billy Bathgate to World’s Fair, The March, and Homer & Langley, the fiction of E. L. Doctorow comprises a towering achievement in modern American letters. Now Doctorow returns with an enthralling collection of brilliant, startling short fiction about people who, as the author notes in his Preface, are somehow “distinct from their surroundings—people in some sort of contest with the prevailing world”.

This stunning collection, contains six unforgettable stories that have never appeared in book form and a selection of previous Doctorow classics.

All the Time in the World affords us another opportunity to savor the genius of this American master.

The last two books I have posted about have been kind of fluffy light reads and ended up duds. This was a serious work and at first I thought, "another dud" but it has stayed with me and gotten even more interesting over time. I enjoy some short stories (You'll Know When the Men Are Gone) (Jumpha Lahiri) but I struggled with these. They were difficult for me because they had some challenging vocabulary but more so because of E.L. Doctrow's writing style. He doesn't use quotes to delineate speech and he doesn't attribute the speech to specific characters with "he said" or "said Joe". There were times when I felt the rhythm of the exchanges and could tell who was conversing and who said what. But there were just as many times where I would get lost and think what the heck is going on?, who's talking?, who said that? So the first time through reading the stories, I could hardly enjoy them because I was trying so hard to understand them. Of the dozen stories there were five that I liked quite a bit right off the bat (Heist, Walter John Harmon, A House on the Plains, Jolene: A Life, and The Writer in the Family). Then the second time around a few more grabbed me. So really, I was left with only one, (Liner Notes: The Songs of Billy Bathgate0 that I just didn't like. Perhaps that particular story assumes some knowledge of Doctrow's book about Billy Bathgate which I haven't read - I couldn't tell whether or not that is the case because it was just too confusing to even try and figure out! So this collection of short stories is best taken in small doses and then reflected upon and read again.

I read this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.


bermudaonion said...

Reading that sounds like a lot of work, so this may not be for me.

Cozy in Texas said...

Sounds like this might be best read as part of a book club read so that it can be discussed.

Bhargavi said...

sounds like a strenuous read.I'll give it a pass !