As I have worked on my book, River of January I’ve been told by patient listeners that my writing sounds like me. Of course I have no idea what that means. How do I know what I sound like? The comment has led me to think a lot about writers that have impressed me over the years with their wonderful and unique voices.
Above is one of the many covers for author, E.L. Doctorow‘s Ragtime. The realization finally came to me from my writing struggles, that his style, his narratives have resonated deeply into my notion of good writing–good story telling. Doctorow is just flat brilliant. Here is an author who can take a fictitious character and move them easily through a time and place. He folds in historic figures believably, effortlessly into and out of the plot. I loved how he wove in Enrico Caruso and Evelyn Nesbitt, as viewed in their own era, in a way that feels almost as intimate as a Murdoch phone tap.
Reading a Doctorow novel is a privileged journey into his rich, fanciful imagination. Billy Bathgate glides along much the same way, luring me into the deadly world of organized crime, while keeping a light heart and affection for his shady characters. Checking out his list of works before writing this blog tells me Doctorow has more to offer in this first winter of my retirement.
My book, too places many famous and almost famous into the story telling. But now I have recognized my North Star, and hopefully that fixed position will aid my efforts.
If I can even touch Doctorow’s genius in wedding the real to the imaginative I will count myself the luckiest kid that ever hit the keys.