Home Culture Novelist E. L. Doctorow Dies

Novelist E. L. Doctorow Dies

by AFP
Neilson Barnard-Getty Images North America—AFP

Neilson Barnard-Getty Images North America—AFP

The 84-year-old acclaimed author was suffering from lung cancer.

Award-winning American author E. L. Doctorow, known for fictional historical works such as Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March, and an experimental narrative style, died Tuesday, The New York Times reported. He was 84.

The cause of death was complications from lung cancer, the novelist’s son, Richard Doctorow, told the paper.

The Bronx-born son of second-generation Jewish immigrants from Russia wielded a writing style that was bold and unusual, giving him the reputation of a creative experimenter. Each work took different facts and fictional elements in a new direction, from Westerns to the detective story.

“E. L. Doctorow was one of America’s greatest novelists. His books taught me much, and he will be missed,” President Barack Obama said in a message posted on Twitter.

Doctorow studied at Kenyon College in Ohio, and then did a year in the graduate program in drama at Columbia University. It was there he met his future wife, Helen Setzer, then an aspiring actress. They wed in Germany while Doctorow, who was drafted, served in the Army. They had a son and two daughters. After working at odd jobs and then in publishing, Doctorow’s first book, 1960’s Welcome to Hard Times, was a Western. He followed up with 1966’s Big as Life, inspired by science fiction.

The Book of Daniel, published in 1971, intertwines personality with history.

Obama has called Doctorow’s Ragtime a personal favorite.

Last year, Doctorow won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The honor followed his being bestowed with a National Humanities Medal, a National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards and two PEN/Faulkner Awards.

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