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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  22,411 ratings  ·  1,328 reviews
Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerve ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 17th 2010 by Random House (first published 1975)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
Today I was thinking of the 101 reasons why I love books, the actual physical papery pagey spiney things with words all over them, and one of the reasons was that they're not machines. Everything i seem to have to do these days is with some kind of machine. At work, of course, chained to the pc - actually it's a laptop on a docking station with two screens, I wonder when they'll add me a third, and although I'm emailing and talking to people all day long (sexy voiced nurses from France and Argen ...more
Ragtime is a historical fiction with a heavy focus on the history. Large stretches of the novel are narrative digressions on contemporary figures ranging from Houdini and Emma Goldman to Freud, Ford, and Morgan, but also a look at the farce of race and justice with a heavy homage from Michael Kohlhaas.

Doctorow wants to create here an authentic yet critical look at the transformation of the United States at this time, and he does so with a choking degree of irony. If I'll quote sentences from th

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.

Ragtime is a colourful patchwork - like picture of America in the early XX century, when …Patriotism was a reliable sentiment…Everyone wore white in summer…There were no Negroes.There were no immigrants. It’s a story in which fates of fictitious heroes intertwine with authentic figures of epoch like magician Houdini, tycoons J.P.Morgan and Henry Ford,an ana
This is a fantastic work of historical fiction. My (somewhat stricter than other people's) definition of historical fiction is a novel in which historical figures not only play a part, but interact with the fictional characters in the story. This novel delivered that in spades! I don't have a large amount of background on the historical figures in the novel, but I read up a little on them and it became clear to me how well Doctorow had fit his fictional characters into their lives. None of what ...more
Allie Whiteley
Just stunning. One of the best books I've read in a long time. Beautifully written and utterly engrossing, I didn't want it to end (which is one reason I took so long reading it). Very cleverly plotted and extremely atmospheric. The way Doctorow weaves together all the loose ends is masterful. His blending of fact and fiction works superbly well. A wonderful novel.
Very enjoyable semi-historical novel set in America at the turn of the 2oth century.
The novel revolves around the fortunes of three families; a white family who are unnamed and referred to as father, mother and mother's younger brother, a jewish family and a black family. Their lives intersect in happy and tragic ways. Interspersed are real life characters such as Houdini, Peary,Ford, Morgan (JP), Emma Goldman and part of the fun is spotting the real life characters amongst the fictional.
Ally Armistead
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
So my first book of 2014 isn't even on my to-read list. Must be good. Yes, in fact it is the killer historical novel of the Ragtime era. It is the big uncle to late 90s Philip Roth ('I Married a Communist', 'American Pastoral') , Don DeLillo ('Libra', 'Underworld'), Gore Vidal ('Empire, Hollywood') & Norman Mailer* (Executioner's Song & Harlot's Ghost) novels which seem to all bend a little to the wind that blew out of this syncopated, tight, urgent historical novel. Doctorow captures a ...more
Joy H.
Re: _Ragtime_ by E.L. Doctorow

2/18/11 - I've finished reading this book. I have to say that I enjoyed the film more. The plotline with the Coalhouse Walker, Jr. character was diluted in the book because the book (as opposed to the film) included more characters and subplots. Much of the text was taken up with the blending of the fictitious characters with the true-life historical personages and historic events. Although it was interesting the way Doctorow wove the fiction and non-fiction togethe
This is one of the finest American historical novels yet written. Doctorow recreates the turbulent atmosphere of the early 20th Century through wonderful characters, both historical (including Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Henry Ford) and many memorable fictional characters, like Coalhouse Walker. The book is about America at a time of increased prosperity, great poverty, racial inequality, immigrant sacrifice, and the road to the First World War ...more
Celeste Ng
The dust jacket on my copy read: "It is a novel so original, so full of imagination and subtle pleasure, that to describe it further would only dilute the pure joy of reading it. Turn to the first page. Begin. You will never have read anything like _Ragtime_ before. Nothing quite like it has ever been written before."

I thought this must be a huge exaggeration. Then I read the book. In fact it's completely the truth. It blends historical personages with central characters who are given no names b
Very enjoyable novel of turn of the century America. The central plot element is a modernised retelling of Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas - foreknowledge of which is not required for enjoyment of this novel. In a sense I feel it sells that story a little short because it has to share Ragtime with a bunch of other elements and Doctorow doesn't to my taste project the same kind of moral outrage as Kleist but making race the equivalent of late medieval/early modern social structure is still a strong sta ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is the sort of historical novel I like. There were many real people with minor roles or cameo appearances - J.P Morgan and Henry Ford among them - used as a backdrop for unnamed fictional characters. The real story was the fictional characters. The major plot point rested on one Coalhouse Walker, Jr., for whom google returns only references to this novel. Perhaps real, perhaps not, and eventually I decided it didn't matter to me. The other major characters seemed composites and emblematic o ...more
Wildly Overrated (2013)

Doctorow, E.L. (1974). Ragtime. New York: Penguin.

This impressionistic portrait of New York in the early 1900’s has been widely praised as a “classic,” and has been made into a movie and a Broadway show. I can't understand the attraction.

The story is roughly centered on the life of an upper-class family in New York, but dozens of other sub-stories flare up and die down around them. A rich socialite who married for money defends her husband who killed her lover, a famous ar
“Ragtime” was somewhat of an accidental read: the book was waiting for its next reader on a library shelf while I was waiting for the librarian to get me the book I had come for. Having a thing for the dawn of the twentieth century, I spontaneously decided to give it a try.

But obviously “Ragtime” and I were not meant to be: I had my difficulties with the novel from the very beginning. The narration oscillates between developments in an unnamed family (interestingly all of the family members are
How to best describe this book so prospective readers will know whether they w like it or not? Look at the beginning lines of the book description: "An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY." Tapestry is the word you want to pay attention to. When you look at a tapestry you see a lot of small details, but you don't get much deep understanding. You are present ...more
E.L. Doctorow has a beautiful style, a prose poetry that combines Dos Passos, black, ironic comedy, musical rhythms, and the ability to make history dirty, alive, and relevant. There has been some attempt to franchise this book into respectability but ignore that, as nothing can replicate the experience of actually reading this classic. Bawdy, irreverent, angry, and thoroughly eviscerating of an era commonly portrayed with nostalgia. The end of the gilded age or progressive era is portrayed as a ...more
مترجم: نجف دریابندری. تعداد صفحات کتاب: 280 صفحه.
در این کتاب نویسنده آمیخته ای از اتفاقات و شخصیت های واقعی آمریکا در حوالی سالهای 1975 رو با شخصیت ها و اتفاقهای رمان گونه به تصویر کشیده. سبک کتاب سبک ادبیات آمریکایی و رئال هست. از شخصیت های واقعی که بهشون در این کتاب اشاره شده میشه از "اما گلدمن"، "هنری فورد"، "مورگان" و "هری هودینی" نام برد. نکته جالب این هست که خیلی از شخصیت های رمان داستان اسم ندارن و مثلا به اسم دائی کوچیکه یا پدر نامیده میشن. از لحاظ تاریخی کتاب میتونه حاوی اطلاعات خوبی ب
Ragtime is iconic, with figures like Harry Houdini and Emma Goldman featured as characters, while still being an extremely well-written piece of literature, and addressing so many of the political and social issues of the time which are, frankly, still often political and social issues today (or perhaps, more where certain p. and s. issues relevant to contemporary situations really kind of began, with the 20's being a booming time where corporate America really got its firm foothold in the power ...more
For the first time, I've read a book purely because of its existence on the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Ragtime was the group read of the month, for January, in the accompanying Goodreads group. I immediately ordered it from my local library, and miraculously it turned up, nearly three months later towards the end of March. Upon collecting it from the library, not only was it now two months after the group had finished reading the book, but I'd somehow ordered the large-pr ...more
When I was 11 or so, my father received a pile of paperback, from whom or why, I never knew. The paperbacks lined up on a shelf in the basement guestroom. During the summers, I would be stuck at home without access to books, so I started to read the paperbacks. They were for adults and covered grown-up themes. I remember most of the books: Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oats; Goodbye, Janette by Harold Robbins; Cashelmara by Susan Howatch; Falling in Place by Anne Beattie; and this book, Ragtime. The ...more
Dec 18, 2007 Tracey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in a slice of life story from turn of the 10th century New York City
Shelves: nyc
I tried to take my time with this book & pretty much failed. I found it to be a fascinating look at the turn of the 20th century as viewed by 3 families living in the greater New York City area and how their lives intertwine with each other, as well as famous figures such as Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman & Evelyn Nesbit. I thought it was a little odd (and distracting) that the main family had no names, instead going by Father, Mother and Mother's Younger Brother, despite makin ...more
Sometime early in his career E.L. Doctorow figured out a great formula for historical fiction. He takes real life iconic figures from whatever era he’s covering and has them interact in believable ways with his fictional characters. It makes for a “show, don’t tell” scenario that brings history alive. With Ragtime, we get to peek inside the heads of Houdini, Freud, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Henry Ford and others. In the process, we learn the issues of the day and get an authentic feel for the s ...more
Ardeshir Tayebi
برنامهریزی کرده بودم تا در طول جشنواره فیلم فجر و در اوقاتی که تنها در لابی سینما منتظر آغاز فیلم هستم این کتاب را بخوانم. حساب کرده بودم اگر شبی تا صفحه بخوانم ظرف یازده روز جشنواره کتاب را تمام میکنم. ولی به روز چهارم نرسیده تمام شد! خاطرم نیست کتابی صفحهای را هیچ وقت به این سرعت تمام کرده باشم.
رگتایم داستانی بسیار خواندنی دارد که در لابلای تاریخ آمریکا در اوایل قرن بیستم بافته شده. دکتروف به طرز فوقالعاده هنرمندانهای واقعیت و خیال را به هم تنیده و نتیجهی کار داستانی بسیار روان با شخصیتها
Masoomeh Tavakoli
یک پازل عجیب تاریخی
طنز فوق العاده
نثر یکپارچه و منسجم
ترجمه ی خیلی خوب
!و پاراگراف هایی نگذشتنی

پ.ن. نسخه ای که من خواندم، متعلّق به زهرا مینایی است.
خودم برایش خریده و بلندترین تقدیم نامه ی جهان را اوّلش نوشته ام...
به تاریخ 20 بهمن 1386
هی روزگار...
Nick Richtsmeier
E. L. Doctorow mystically does here what so few successfully do: he intertwines the ficticious and the factual in a way that reminds us how distant we are from the truth. Our memories of times and places are not facts, nor are they reality. They are frescos, paintings of a former time, where the events that create themes are the ones we remember, and the ones set into marble are those that are lightposts defining a certain time.
Such is what Doctorow does with the turn of the 20th century. He gi
I think I have a problem with male, American 1970s novels. I found Ragtime a drag - lazily compressed, never pausing to unlock the contradictions and evasions that are at the heart of all great characters (and fiction), repetitive and unbelievable and grindingly obvious. The sex scenes are painfully hilarious, the women so cardboard they don't even seem two-dimensional representations of humanity. The only thing I liked was a passage a third of the way through where one of the characters actuall ...more
جملههای کوتاه و ریز اما تیز. نثر قوی، ترجمه بسیار خوب نجف دریابندری، اطلاعات تاریخی مفید، قرن بیستم آمریکا را چه خوب شروع میکند. اما سلیقه چیزیست که در تمام آدمها وجود دارد: عدهای مونالیزا را شاهکار دو عالم میدانند، عدهای پرترهای بیارزش، و بعضی افراد تحصیل کرده و دانای نقاش جزو دسته دوم هستند. در مورد آثار هنری و ادبی به طور قاطع نمیتوانیم نظر بدهیم. هیچ گاه بهترین کتاب، بهترین تابلو، یا بهترین قطعه موسیقی را نمیتوانیم انتخاب کنیم. رگتایم آدمهای مختلف را متفاوت مینوازد. برای من تحملش سخت بود و د ...more
I saw the musical based on Ragtime in the original Broadway run and fell in love. I've put off reading the book ever since because I was afraid it wouldn't hold up to the adaptation in my mind. I'm glad in a way that I delayed, because I think the temporal separation helps me better appreciate them as two separate works--and they are very separate, even if the play lifts passages wholesale from the text. If I were looking for the play in book form, I would not have liked this, but as an independ ...more
What a magical book. I wish I'd read it many years ago and I might have finished it in a day but I wanted to savor it. Doctorow writes in unassuming declarative sentences that he assembles into long paragraphs where those plain bricks are somehow built into works of beautiful architecture, every once in a while topping those structures with a sentence that just stops you cold. The resulting atmosphere resembles magical realism, except nothing magical happens in the plot, the magic is in Doctorow ...more
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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...
The March Homer & Langley Billy Bathgate The Book of Daniel World's Fair

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“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.” 37 likes
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