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E.L. Doctorow quotes (showing 1-30 of 145)

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
E.L. Doctorow
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
E.L. Doctorow, Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
E.L. Doctorow
“I am telling you what I know—words have music and if you are a musician you will write to hear them.”
E.L. Doctorow
“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. ”
E.L. Doctorow
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing.”
E.L. Doctorow
“There is music in words, and it can be heard you know, by thinking.”
E.L. Doctorow, Homer & Langley
“The difference between Socrates and Jesus is that no one had ever been put to death in Socrates' name. And that is because Socrates' ideas were never made law. Law, in whatever name, protects privilege.”
E.L. Doctorow
“I am often asked the question How can the masses permit themselves to be exploited by the few. The answer is By being persuaded to identify with them.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake. ”
E.L. Doctorow
“It was evident to him that the world composed and recomposed itself constantly in an endless process of dissatisfaction.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“A novelist is a person who lives in other people's skins.”
E.L. Doctorow
“Someone dying asks if there is life after death. Yes, comes the answer, only not yours.”
E.L. Doctorow
“Satire's nature is to be one-sided, contemptuous of ambiguity, and so unfairly selective as to find in the purity of ridicule an inarguable moral truth.”
E.L. Doctorow
“We are all good friends. Friendship is what endures. Shared ideals, respect for the whole character of a human being. ”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“Stories distribute the suffering so that it can be borne.”
E.L. Doctorow
“Because like all whores you value propriety. You are creature of capitalism, the ethics of which are so totally corrupt and hypocritical that your beauty is no more than the beauty of gold, which is to say false and cold and useless.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“I asked this question: How can I think about my brain when it’s my brain doing the thinking? So is this brain pretending to be me thinking about it?”
E.L. Doctorow, Andrew's Brain
“The writer isn't made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.”
E.L. Doctorow
“I watched bulls bred to cows, watched mares foal, I saw life come from the egg and the multiplicative wonders of mudholes and ponds, the jell and slime of life shimmering in gravid expectation. Everywhere I looked, life sprang from something not life, insects unfolded from sacs on the surface of still waters and were instantly on prowl for their dinner, everything that came into being knew at once what to do and did it, unastonished that it was what it was, unimpressed by where it was, the great earth heaving up bloodied newborns from every pore, every cell, bearing the variousness of itself from every conceivable substance which it contained in itself, sprouting life that flew or waved in the wind or blew from the mountains or stuck to the damp black underside of rocks, or swam or suckled or bellowed or silently separated in two.”
E.L. Doctorow, Lives of the Poets: A Novella and Six Stories
“Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“I knew he was unreliable, but he was fun to be with. He was a child’s ideal companion, full of surprises and happy animal energy. He enjoyed food and drink. He liked to try new things. He brought home coconuts, papayas, mangoes, and urged them on our reluctant conservative selves. On Sundays he liked to discover new places, take us on endless bus or trolley rides to some new park or beach he knew about. He always counseled daring, in whatever situation, the courage to test the unknown, an instruction that was thematically in opposition to my mother’s.”
E.L. Doctorow, World's Fair
“The three most important documents a free society gives are a birth certificate, a passport, and a library card.”
E.L. Doctorow
“His life was absurd. He went all over the world accepting all kinds of bondage and escaping. He was roped to a chair. He escaped. He was chained to a ladder. He escaped. He was handcuffed, his legs were put in irons, he was tied up in a strait jacket and put in a locked cabinet. He escaped. He escaped from bank vaults, nailed-up barrels, sewn mailbags; he escaped from a zinc-lined Knabe piano case, a giant football, a galvanized iron boiler, a rolltop desk, a sausage skin. His escapes were mystifying because he never damaged or appeared to unlock what he escaped from. The screen was pulled away and there he stood disheveled but triumphant beside the inviolate container that was supposed to have contained him. He waved to the crowd. He escaped from a sealed milk can filled with water. He escaped from a Siberian exile van. From a Chinese torture crucifix. From a Hamburg penitentiary. From an English prison ship. From a Boston jail. He was chained to automobile tires, water wheels, cannon, and he escaped. He dove manacled from a bridge into the Mississippi, the Seine, the Mersey, and came up waving. He hung upside down and strait-jacketed from cranes, biplanes and the tops of buildings. He was dropped into the ocean padlocked in a diving suit fully weighted and not connected to an air supply, and he escaped. He was buried alive in a grave and could not escape, and had to be rescued. Hurriedly, they dug him out. The earth is too heavy, he said gasping. His nails bled. Soil fell from his eyes. He was drained of color and couldn't stand. His assistant threw up. Houdini wheezed and sputtered. He coughed blood. They cleaned him off and took him back to the hotel. Today, nearly fifty years since his death, the audience for escapes is even larger.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“...if justice cannot be made to operate under the worst possible conditions of social hysteria, what does it matter how it operates at other times?”
E.L. Doctorow
“You're nothing more than a clever prostitute. You accepted the conditions in which you found yourself and you triumphed.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“Grandmamma had been the last connection to our past. I had understood her as some referent moral authority to whom we paid no heed, but by whose judgments we measured our waywardness.”
E.L. Doctorow, Homer & Langley
“And though the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, Goldman knew it was only 1906 and there were ninety-four years to go.”
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
“And so the ordinary unendurable torments we all experienced were indeed exceptional in the way they were absorbed in each heart.”
E.L. Doctorow, City of God
“Jacqueline, for how many days have I been without food. There was a crash, the whole house shook. Where is Langley? Where is my brother?”
E.L. Doctorow, Homer & Langley

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