Reporting the Universe

Reporting the Universe

by E. L. Doctorow
     
 

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"The writer," according to Emerson, "believes all that can be thought can be written...In his eyes a man is the faculty of reporting, and the universe is the possibility of being reported." And what writer worth his name, E. L. Doctorow asks, will not seriously, however furtively, take on the universe? Human consciousness, personal history, American literature,

Overview

"The writer," according to Emerson, "believes all that can be thought can be written...In his eyes a man is the faculty of reporting, and the universe is the possibility of being reported." And what writer worth his name, E. L. Doctorow asks, will not seriously, however furtively, take on the universe? Human consciousness, personal history, American literature, religion, and politics--these are the far-flung coordinates of the universe that Doctorow reports here, a universe that uniquely and brilliantly reflects our contemporary scene.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist

As Reporting the Universe (the phrase is Emerson's) unfolds with its piquant and enlightening blend of the personal, the aesthetic, and the political, Doctorow uses the axis between the secular and the religious to take measure of the transcendent powers of literature and key ethical issues in post-September 11 America. As he forthrightly contrasts the rigidity of fundamentalism with the fluidity of intellectual and artistic explorations, Doctorow, who always works on deep, even mythic levels, creating brilliant arguments out of breathtaking metaphors, perceives great danger in the current blurring of the line between church and state, and in the enormous influence of corporate interests on governmental policy. Ultimately, this potent collection of elegantly distilled essays offers a fresh perspective on our species' capacity for both the sublime and the horrific.
— Donna Seaman

Financial Times (UK)

Doctorow's essays...start as a personal memoir, and unfurl into a sharp look at the state of America, its soul and its literature, all perceptively portrayed via one another. On the way through this fascinating mélange, Doctorow illuminates the business of writing and reading, the two central occupations of his own life, through which his America appears framed.
— A. C. Grayling

Newsday

Elegantly written and bracingly thoughtful.
— Peter Terzian

New York Review of Books

There hasn't been such a generous batch of essays in the decade since his own Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution.
— John Leonard

Chicago Tribune

Doctorow's nonfiction has a distinctly Emersonian approach, attempting to delve beneath the visible to find a soulful center, albeit primarily a secular one.
— Art Winslow

Booklist - Donna Seaman
As Reporting the Universe (the phrase is Emerson's) unfolds with its piquant and enlightening blend of the personal, the aesthetic, and the political, Doctorow uses the axis between the secular and the religious to take measure of the transcendent powers of literature and key ethical issues in post-September 11 America. As he forthrightly contrasts the rigidity of fundamentalism with the fluidity of intellectual and artistic explorations, Doctorow, who always works on deep, even mythic levels, creating brilliant arguments out of breathtaking metaphors, perceives great danger in the current blurring of the line between church and state, and in the enormous influence of corporate interests on governmental policy. Ultimately, this potent collection of elegantly distilled essays offers a fresh perspective on our species' capacity for both the sublime and the horrific.
Financial Times (UK) - A. C. Grayling
Doctorow's essays...start as a personal memoir, and unfurl into a sharp look at the state of America, its soul and its literature, all perceptively portrayed via one another. On the way through this fascinating mélange, Doctorow illuminates the business of writing and reading, the two central occupations of his own life, through which his America appears framed.
Newsday - Peter Terzian
Elegantly written and bracingly thoughtful.
New York Review of Books - John Leonard
There hasn't been such a generous batch of essays in the decade since his own Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution.
Chicago Tribune - Art Winslow
Doctorow's nonfiction has a distinctly Emersonian approach, attempting to delve beneath the visible to find a soulful center, albeit primarily a secular one.
The New York Times
In the 14 essays -- originally delivered as the William E. Massey Sr. lectures in the history of American civilization at Harvard -- the novelist E. L. Doctorow recalls his boyhood during the Depression in his culturally rich Brooklyn home and reflects on his intellectual development at Kenyon College under the tutelage of the poet John Crowe Ransom. — Andy Brumer
Publishers Weekly
Whether he's contemplating the irony of our "God-soaked country" being officially secular, or his father's love of Edgar Allan Poe, "our greatest bad writer" (for whom he was named Edgar), or deriding the "mendacity" of politicians, Doctorow is here, as in his fiction, a wordsmith of the first order. It's a pleasure to read these essays-some autobiographical, some literary, some dealing with issues of the day-full of memorable phrases and evocative images, as well as incisive ideas. While recovering from a burst appendix as a boy during the Depression, he discovered Jack London, whose tales made him long to leave his difficult life in the Bronx "to be in the wild, loping at the head of my pack, ready to leap up and plunge my incisors into the throats of all who would harm me or my family." For readers who aren't familiar with Doctorow's work, this is a delightful and bracing introduction. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this latest volume of the "William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization," whose previous contributors include Eudora Welty, Irving Howe, Toni Morrison, Gore Vidal, and Richard Rorty, Doctorow (The Book of Daniel) contributes a series of meditations that range from the role of the writer in modern society to the struggle for meaning between the traditions of Western secularism (free speech and logic) and of fundamentalist politico-religious movements. Here again, as in his Lamentation 9/11, Doctorow turns his attention to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. He explores the central paradoxes found between politics/ religion and philosophy/literature, interweaving biographical reminiscences of both religious and creative influences with observations about the current condition of the writer and world events. Because Reporting the Universe was originally a series of lectures, the tone and subject matter vary quite a bit from chapter to chapter. The most accessible and free-flowing passages are those dealing with Doctorow's family and his memories of them. Suitable for academic libraries with deep political and literature collections.-Felicity D. Walsh, Saint Anselm Coll., Manchester, NH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674016286
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
09/30/2004
Series:
William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization Series, #2003
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.31(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

E. L. Doctorow held the Glucksman Chair in American and English Letters at New York University.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sag Harbor, New York, and New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 6, 1931
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
A.B., Kenyon College, 1952; postgraduate study, Columbia University, 1952-53
Website:
http://www.randomhouse.com/atrandom/doctorow/

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