Rag Time – E L Doctorow

This is the first time I read a book through voice (by Doctorow). It makes my reading faster (I used to be a slow reader without it. And Doctorow read quite fast, I think).

Don’t want to be a spoiler, so I don’t cite the story around Coalhouse Walker here. But I want to say his story doesn’t feel old or out of time when you read in this era, 2019 America, although the story is about an America before WWI (Doctorow mentioned the gossip story about many American celebrities around that era). My experience of reading the story is at the start I felt the mini-stories around the celebrities and the antagonist’s family quite trivial (though enjoyable). Then, right from the moment Coalhouse Walker stepped into the scene I felt the rhythm of the story tonality change suddenly. And I found his reaction to what happened to him absurd, unimportant, him over the board, just like the characters around him felt. Then step by step Doctorow showed me that no I’m wrong. It’s important. It’s minor, but it’s important, and his reaction’s reasonable and justifiable. And finally, I felt I learned it. The more time I think of it the more I feel that I learned it. Some authors like to say Reading fiction teaches one empathy. And reading this book I experience what this quote actually means.

Surprisingly, that rage didn’t fade since Doctorow wrote this book. The rage is still here around America, the contemporary America. Likewise, American white, as those fictional characters in the story, adopt the same burlesque attitude towards what the Black America is still encountering with every day. And we have an American president who’s embodied the soul of the Chief Fireman in the story. It makes the story surprisingly relatable to our times.

Highly recommend it.



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