E.L. Doctorow, the author of Ragtime has died. According to the NY Times, the acclaimed writer passed away from complications due to lung cancer. He was 84.
While Doctorow was best-known for his historical fiction, he chafed at the label.
He told NPR's Scott Simon in 2014:
"I don't agree with that. I think all novels are about the past, the near past, the far past, some of them have a wider focus and include more of society and recognizable events and people. The historical novel seems to me a misnomer, and many of my books take place in different places, in the Dakotas, or down south in Georgia or the Carolinas, so it's just as valid to call me a geographical novelist as an historical novelist. I think of myself really as a national novelist, as an American novelist writing about my country.Doctorow won the National Book Award for fiction in 1986 for World's Fair, and was a finalist four other times. He also received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, an award that honors an author's entire body of work. In 2013, Doctorow was given the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for lifetime achievement.
While Doctorow wrote a dozen novels, including Billy Bathgate, Welcome to Hard Times, and Daniel, all of which were made into films, Ragtime is probably his most well known. In addition to the 1981 screen version, the book was also adapted for the stage as a musical in 1998. Unfortunately, E.L. Doctorow was less than satisfied with the movie based on his book and apparently preferred the musical production, which he told Variety 'caught the spirit' of his writing while the film 'misread my text.'
Even so, the movie received eight Oscar nominations including a supporting actress nomination for Elizabeth McGovern and supporting actor nod for Howard Rollins, and this melancholy song, One More Hour written by the film's composer, Randy Newman. It seems fitting for the occasion.