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Audio Book Review – Creationists: Selected Essays: 1993-2006 by E. L. Doctorow

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Creationists is a set of 16 essays adapted from reviews, book introductions and public lectures in which E. L. Doctorow explores the themes of literary and scientific creation and the ways that “creators” shape and are shaped by the culture that surrounds them. While this is a highly inspiring work for writers, as well as for those who love to read the written word, Doctorow goes beyond literature and explores the worlds of humor as well as of science.

He begins, well, at the beginning, with Genesis. He describes how there was a time when someone told a story, it was regarded at the truth. He explores how this expectation, over time, broke down. By the time that Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe, Defoe had to try to convince the reader that he was only reporting the story to give the illusion of fact.

In the essay on Mark Twain, Doctorow explores the two faces that are Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He describes the fun-loving Sawyer, who rejects the social class that he is a part of via his Aunt Polly, and compares it to that of the serious Huckleberry Finn, who is just trying to survive his drunken father and those that are trying to kill him for what he has seen and what he has done. The author talks about how Twain begins to explore the issues of slavery, but in the end never quite does it justice.

In the essay on Melville, the author explores the realm of “What might have happened” when at chapter 20 Melville realizes that Ishmael has not even left land. Melville’s choice was “to pass the time by destroying it”. By being a creationist of a novel, he “blasted its conventions”.

In each of these essays, Doctorow digs to the heart of the topic. Sometimes he explores a single work; at other times his focus is on the creator themselves. Always he makes us think by looking at the essay through the eyes of someone who has been there and can look at the work from the mind of a creator. I highly recommend this to any one who has a love of literary work.

The material is read by the author, who does a wonderful job. I always enjoy hearing the words from the voice of the author who can deliver as no other, especially in the case of a book of non-fiction.

And he knows of what he speaks: Edgar Laurence Doctorow is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including The Book of Daniel and Ragtime. The author blends history and social criticism in to his stories, which are acclaimed for their prose, narrative and atmosphere.

The Essays
Anonymous translators – Genesis
Mark Twain – Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn
Sinclair Lewis – Arrowsmith
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Crack-Up
John Dos Passos – U.S.A.
Harriet Beecher Stowe – Uncle Tom’s Cabin
W.G. Sebald – The Emigrants
Harpo Marx – His mute humor
Albert Einstein – The Bomb
Edgar Allen Poe – His work in general
Ernest Hemmingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
Hermann Melville – Moby Dick
André Malraux – L'Espoir
Arthur Miller – His work in general
Heinrich von Kleist – His plays in general
Franz Kafka – Amerika

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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