July 22, 2015

E. L. Doctorow

E. L. Doctorow

E. L. Doctorow, the adventurously experimental historical novelist who wrote Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, has died. The New York Times obituary reminds us that the “E” was for Edgar, because Doctorow’s father loved Poe: “Actually, he liked a lot of bad writers, but Poe was our greatest bad writer, so I take some consolation from that. . . . I remember asking [my mother] 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.’ ”

Those who wonder what a post-Gawker internet might look like were treated to a preview on Monday when both it and Jezebel went dark during editorial wranglings over that disputed post. One Gawker writer, musing on his editorial experiences elsewhere and on the ethics of outing or not outing, hopes it won’t come to that, concluding: “I would rather work at a place that’s bold enough to fuck up than one that is too afraid to ever risk it.” And editors elsewhere use the occasion to discuss their worst mistakes—here’s Jimmy Jellinek of Playboy on what happened after he published a nude spread of Lindsay Lohan in the midst of her troubles: “I just didn’t realize it would change me so much. At least it got me into therapy, so that was good.”

On the New Yorker’s blog, Jon Michaud makes a case for James Purdy: “Unsparing, ambiguous, violent, and largely indifferent to the reader’s needs, Purdy’s fiction seems likely to remain an acquired taste. But it is a taste worth acquiring.”

Harper’s is trying out a metered paywall, so non-subscribers can finally get into the archive, at least for one story a month. Try not to get lost in there.

Tonight at the Center for Fiction, Lidia Yuknavitch will be talking about The Small Backs of Children with Porochista Khakpour.

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