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Loon Lake

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  903 ratings  ·  56 reviews
It is America in the great depression, and he is a child of that time, that place. He runs away from home in Paterson, New Jersey, to New York City and learns the bare bones of life before he hits the road with a traveling carnival. Then one icy night in the Adirondacks, the young man sees a private train roar by. In its lit windows, he spies an industrial tycoon, a poet, ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Published 1988 by Fawcett (first published 1980)
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Leah
This may be the worst book I've ever read. I'm not kidding. It was awful. Celebrated author, intriguing cover copy, great reviews . . . but it was a complete and utter mess of unmitigated dreck. It wasn't just the fact that the narrative switches back and forth between third person, first person, and bad poetry; or the fact that rules of grammar and punctuation don't seem to exist, making it necessary to go back and read the same sentence several times in the hopes of figuring out what it's sayi ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in December 2001.

One of Doctorow's more experimental novels, Loon Lake presents a bewildering collection of different techniques: traditional narratives, stream of consciousness, poetry. It is also a novel which continually reminds the reader of others, possibly an easy way for an author to put himself in the tradition of the great American novel; among those which are brought to mind are The Grapes of Wrath and the U.S.A. trilogy.

Loon Lake, a retreat for mil
...more
Vit Babenco
Loon Lake is extremely complex, full of unexpected turns and hard to penetrate. The nonlinear evolutions of the plot don't help either but in the long run it's one of the best novels by E. L. Doctorow and it surely is my most favourite.
“The man resisted all approaches he was stone he was steel I hated his grief his luxurious dereliction I hated his thoughts the quality of his voice his walk the way he spent his life proving his importance ritualizing his superiority his exercises of freedom his
...more
Nick Jones
I first came across E.L. Doctorow when I was in my twenties. I was reading a lot of American writers who I thought of as 1960s writers and Doctorow fitted in. His work was wittily experimental, self-consciously used past literary styles, could often be described as pastiche, often switched perspective, was playful, he played literary games...the new buzz word at the time for all this was ‘postmodernist’. But Doctorow differed from writers such as Thomas Pynchon, because, while for Pynchon the pl ...more
Patrick Sprunger
I would say Loon Lake is the best E.L. Doctorow novel I have read thus far (I even hazard to say Loon Lake is the superior of Ragtime). Others have called it confusing, difficult, compromised by bad poetry, etc., but I found the out-of-chronological order and first-person-narrative jumping exciting. The use of verse to reprise the prose was a way of angling the story slightly differently so the reader can admire the way the light strikes it on different facets. Doctorow's occasional decision to ...more
Janice
Confusing. Jumping from character to character, person to person, prose to poetry, punctuation to no punctuation. There were moments where the writing was surprising that would keep me reading, and then, disappointment. What really drove me crazy was there wasn't one redeemable character -- not one person I would want to spend any time with -- not one that seemed human.
Craig Amason
The intrigue in this book really kept my attention, and the parallels to historical figures made it so Doctorowesque. As in City of God, he is playing with the stream of consciousness, which does get a bit laborious at times. It is still a fine read.
John
Doctorow is one of my favorite contemporary authors, but it took me several tries to get into this novel. The opening prose has this faux-modernist feel to it, and he lapses back into that at several points without much good reason. That's what put me off -- it didn't feel like Doctorow. But it is good writing (no surprise), and once I allowed myself to get into it I found this to be a interesting if minor pleasure for the Doctorow devotee. The plot concerns the ways in which the lives of a drif ...more
Frank
This was a somewhat challenging book to read. Doctorow used various writing styles throughout the book going from 1st person to 3rd person narration, then including a stream of consciousness style (similar to Faulkner) where the narration goes on for several pages without punctuation or clear sentences, he then also includes some passages in poetry. But if you can get through all that, the story is quite interesting about a young man (Joe) during the depression of the 1930s who works as a carniv ...more
Christina M.
E. L. Doctorow's Loon Lake is proof that I can completely read a book from start to finish and still have no clue as to what it's about. I know that a character named Joe from Paterson, NJ travels a lot, follows a train, empathizes for a fat woman sex act in a sideshow carnival, and hooks up with one or two women, one of whom was married to a man who gets killed. I don't know exactly what happens to her husband other than something in the union and Joe from Paterson is framed for a time, and I h ...more
Iiris Onerva
I picked this up at a book recycling stall in a shopping centre some years ago and only got round to reading it now. I had no idea who the author was or what the book would be about - there wasn't even a background blurb - which was a rather refreshing way to start reading a novel. But even if I had had expectations, I doubt I would have been disappointed.

The writing seemed effortless, which is not a given with experimental or stream-of-consciousness styles, and was generally a pleasure to read.
...more
John
“A book has its origins in the private excitements of the writer’s mind,” novelist E.L. Doctorow wrote in 1994.”The excitements are private because they’re incommunicable unless they’re rendered, given extension and resolved as a book.

“Years ago," he continued, "driving in the Adirondack mountains, I passed a road sign that said ‘Loon Lake.’ I’ve always been moved by that part of the country but my strong feelings for its woods and streams suddenly intensified and seemed to cohere on those two w
...more
Toolshed
At first, I was very surprised with Loon Lake because I didn´t expect it to be as much experimental as it was - good thing that I like such novels. Despite many of the not-so-positive reviews here and despite the fact that they are actually spot-on and true in some statements, I´m gonna have to go with the 5* rating anyways. Reason one: I like experimenting both in form and content, as long as it is not for the sake of the story itself (like it happened in Barthelme´s Dead Father), so this innov ...more
Perry Whitford
Joseph Korzeniowski leaves his life in 1930's New Jersey and goes out to look for his own American Dream. Whilst the rest of the country suffers the deprivations of The Depression he finds wealth, lust and poetry in the country retreat of a wealthy industrialist. But violence haunts Loon Lake.

Doctorow is an exceptional writer, capable of telling a complex tale with shifting narratives, which he does here with Faulkerish obtuseness. The voice switches from the first to third person, there is poet
...more
itpdx
This is a challenging novel to read. It changes characters, points-of-view, places and times without warning. It drops into unpunctuated stream-of-consciousness now and then. But it is an interesting tale that follows a young man, Joe, from working class New Jersey as he tries to find his way during the Great Depression. He runs up against organized crime, the wealthy, a circus, union unrest, and "Okies" making their way to California. His story is interwoven with the story of a derelict poet an ...more
Viktoriya
My first introduction to E.L. Doctorow and this book might not have been a good choice. I simply couldn't read it. Half of the time I had no idea who he is talking about, and the other half of the time I was trying to make sense of the poetry and bio snips in the middle of the story.
Lori
Stylistically this book annoyed me. I'd just start to get engaged in a plotline, or interested in a character, when Doctorow's labored efforts to mimic Faulkner would again force me to parse the narrative repeatedly. There are many elements of a compelling story here, many snapshots of what happens to basically decent people whose circumstances land them on the edge of survival and at the fringe of mainstream America. But when characters are disaffected and prone to unpleasant behavior, they nee ...more
Ruth
Sometimes I look at a book I know I have read and only my notes trigger what it was like or about. Sometimes my notes don't help: "tough but good".
Joel
I've read (and liked) a lot of Doctorow's stuff, but this isn't good. In fact, it's sort of a mess. The biggest problem is that the story is told from (at least) two perspectives, and one of them is the perspective of a whiny, untalented poet named Warren Penfield.

Maybe Doctorow felt Penfield's story was interesting (it isn't) -- more likely, it's just there because the main story is too insubstantial. The main character is Joe, and he goes from a circus to the Loon Lake retreat of a multi-mill
...more
Kyle
If you don't want an experimental great depression novel with multiple perspectives, stream of conscious madness and Zen koans hidden through out then don't read this book.

Your loss.
John
what have we here? honestly don't know. what I do know is that I thought I wouldn't like it and I almost enjoyed it. almost.
Jim
Intriguing premise, but perhaps I did not grasp the shift in tone compared to this author's other works.
Concha Marcos
Con verdadero placer he leido por tercera vez esta inclasificable novela donde la historia real de una España convulsa y una Barcelona en pleno desarrollo industrial entre las dos exposiciones universales, se mezcla y confunde con la increible fábula de Onofre Bouvila pobre pícaro sin malicia pero con inteligencia convertido al final, en un ganster sin moral ni escrúpulos políticos o sociales que traba conocimientos de la índole de Alfonso XIII o Rasputín y todo bañado del sin par humor negro y ...more
Louis Roos
I bought this book because of the author, (years ago I read Ragtime, which was excellent), I did not know anything about it, but what a pleasant surprise. The story plays off in the era of the Great War and the Great Depression. It is very well written, and the story is interesting. One point of criticism, the author makes use of different styles in the narrative, from poetry to normal punctuation to chapters without punctuation. I found the latter irritating because of the different possible me ...more
May
From reading Loon Lake, E.L Doctorow reminds me fondly of Cormac McCarthy - both glorify violence with graceful (albeit esoteric) prose that is refreshing to read. Loon Lake adopts a convoluted structure that bedazzles and frustrates readers. Only until the last two pages did I truly appreciate the effectiveness of the structure; the story is told with poetry, eulogies and an overall remission of chronological sequence. It is ultimately a grueling and rough story of ambition, truth and adaptiven ...more
Michaela
Initially his Dylan Thomas-like lack of proper punctuation drove me nuts. Later I came to understand that the flow of words were representative of the character's emotional flux. Doctorow is a skilled writer and his cleverness was enough for me to give it three-stars but frankly almost every character in the book was a horrible person. So the conclusion may not provide a satisfactory emotional resolution to the reader.
Kevin
I was drawn to this book because I really enjoyed Doctorow's prose in Rag Time. The various writing styles used in this novel did not fail to impress, and I really enjoyed reading it, even if it was a bit tricky at time. Yeah, there's too much sex and violence, but as far as being fun and interesting on a "literature" level, it earned its 3 stars. Anyone interested in creative writing styles should check this guy out!
Jessie
Disjointed, unsuccessfully self consciously poetic. To do away with the formalities of linear storytelling and the conventions of grammar and punctuation you require a grand vision or other compensatory factors not present here. This book never achieves an authenticity of voice for anyone, is not a good historical record nor a uniform commentary on wealth or class, and is at times forthrightly misogynistic.
Andrea
Wonderfully written and sometimes overly strange, but even the strange bits seem to loop together and make a generally sensible story. I was always fascinated to read on and find out how some seemingly unrelated bit would be revealed as integral to the story and the already existing characters.

Love the detail, Doctorow writes so well, in my opinion, that one could just read a paragraph and feel satisfaction.
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E. L. DOCTOROW’S works of fiction include Homer & Langley,The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, the Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidential ...more
More about E.L. Doctorow...
Ragtime The March Homer & Langley Billy Bathgate The Book of Daniel

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“Perhaps we all reappear, perhaps all our lives are impositions one on another.” 2 likes
“The poem is a cry of the unborn heart. Yes, because the poem perfectly embodies the world, there is no world without poem.” 1 likes
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