Monday, February 9, 2015

The Book of Daniel

E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel is a fictionalized exploration of the Rosenberg’s arrest, execution, and the impact it had on their two children.  Unlike other historical novels written by Doctorow, this novel does not use the names of real historical figures (for when the book was written, they were still alive) but he employs the same techniques he does in subsequent novels, weaving fiction and non-fiction elements into the whole.

As this book was written in 1971 so there are very many post-modern elements within.   Most of the novel is Daniel’s first person exposition of events, but suddenly the narrative changes, often in mid-sentence, to third person.  The book is fractured: letters, journal entries, Daniel’s dissertation, and presents us three endings, one more than The French Lieutenant’s Woman, written in 1969.

Doctorow is a masterful novelist, at home in any genre or technique, so these stunts are not forced or frivolous but integral to the plot.   If you want to read a POMO novel without the gags and tricks of someone with a fresh MFA, playing with their new found toys, read this novel.

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