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Sweet Land Stories

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  466 ratings  ·  49 reviews
One of America’s premier writers, the bestselling author of Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, The Book of Daniel, and World’s Fair turns his astonishing narrative powers to the short story in five dazzling explorations of who we are as a people and how we live.

Ranging over the American continent from Alaska to Washington, D.C., these superb short works are crafted with all the weig
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Published May 4th 2004 by Random House (first published January 1st 2004)
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Sweet Land Stories is a collection about the myth of the American Dream: the people who abuse it, the people who awake from it, the people who continue to believe in it long after it has failed them. Unbound, these are stories one might not think to gather together, but they make a surprising sense together. They resonate in unexpected ways, particularly in the ways each story asks questions about the nature of power, the impossibility of outrunning the past, and the belief that children can hel ...more
Saw the movie "Jolene" which was based on the short story in this book. An interseting array of short stories based on life in America.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in July 2007.

Sweet Land Stories is a collection of five short(ish) stories, all but the last published in the New Yorker in the first few years of this decade. In order, A House on the Plains describes a young man's discovery that his mother is a serial killer, enticing men to a midwest farm to kill and rob them; Baby Wilson is told from the point of view of the boyfriend of a young woman who steals a child from a hospital; Jolene: A Life describes the disast
May 26, 2010 Patrick rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ian Pisarcik
E.L. Doctorow's "Sweet Land Stories," presents us with a side of rural America that is rarely witnessed firsthand, but that we all know exists. It is a realm of problematic rationalization:

"This newborn baby, whom we have stolen from another couple, will be safer and healthier with us..."

"My mother is justified in marrying and subsequently killing rich foreign men and keeping their money..."

"This man is so idiotically cocky and financially successful that I'm sure he'll make a great husband and
Alex Snellgrove
This is a collection of 5 short stories that at first seem to have been written by 5 different people, the author managing to inhabit the world of his characters to an extraordinary degree. The first two are narrated in a very informal US vernacular which appear to date from the mid-1900s and it's a shock to realise how recently they were first published (early 2000s). They are creepy and the characters are marginal (let's be honest - criminal) and they are completely astonishing. The next, abou ...more
Well. Five stories. Not uniformly bleak. Well, actually, yes they are. Don't read these to cheer up.

Read them if you want to see a well-constructed story. "A House on the Plains" begins with a mother and son departing Chicago for a house outside the city (sounds like now it would be around Aurora, in the middle of another city, but anyway...). It's only very slowly that you realize that this happy family is not your and my kind of happy family. At least I hope not!

"Jolene: A Life" is grindingly
These were well written interesting short stories that always left me thinking about the characters and the plot. Sometimes I had to take a minute to try and understand what exactly was going on because the plots were also a little bit ambiguous and they made you think, not much as given to you straightforward. The last story "Child, dead, in the Rose Garden" gave me goosebumps at the end.
Frederick Bingham
A collection of short stories by E. L. Doctorow. The most memorable one is Child, Dead in the Rose Garden. It is about an 8-year-old child who is found dead in the Rose Garden after a ceremony. An FBI agent tries to find out how the child got there, who he was and what killed him. The trail eventually leads back to one of the President's big contributors in Texas. The child belonged to one of his gardeners. The whole thing is hushed up and covered up by White House political operatives who don't ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Each critic professes great respect for Doctorow, who, at age 73 and many awards later, has earned it. However, there the split begins. Many critics hail these stories, four of which were published previously in The New Yorker, as an achievement that perfectly captures the American nation's mood, its aberrant characters, and dark underbelly. But others dismiss the book as a slim, shallow effort that does not live up to Doctorow's past work. Common complaints? "A House on the Plains" doesn't fit

Robert Hepple
This is a collection of five fairly short stories originally published between 2001 and 2004. The plots are dark, a little seedy at times, fast-paced and cover a variety of situations in the USA. I found them all compelling in different ways, and was disappointed only in the speed with which I got through them. Very impressed.
Vikki Marshall
Doctorow is one of America’s great storytellers and in this collection of short stories he takes us from Washington D.C. to Alaska on a whirlwind tour of life in the cracks of America. His characters are flawed, even at times seemingly unlovable, but Doctorow brings up a richness and density that exists within the imperfection of life. We meet mother and son con-artists, a baby-stealing couple, the lives on a fundamentalist religious commune, an FBI agent deciphering an abandoned body in the Ros ...more
I thought these stories sounded a bit familiar, so I checked my list of books read (which pre-dates Goodreads by over a decade), and, sure enough, I read this book over seven years ago. I don't mind, though--the stories were well worth reading again.
Jennifer Mest
Love this book it was really good. Favorite Story was Jolene: A Life and the movie was really good also. Can't wait to read more of his stuff.
Richard Jespers
Best two stories are “Baby Wilson” and “House on the Plains.” The last three are questionable from several standpoints.
Stories like pinball, the way they glance off the merest passing detail to head in a whole other direction.
This was a collection of short stories. It was quick. It was enjoyable. Nothing to write home about but I don't regret it either. If you are looking for something quick, I'd recommend this.
This series of shorts stories is very good! Really enjoyed them.
Maughn Gregory
This is what the art of the short story read like.
Grady Ormsby
"Sweet Land Stories" is a collection of five short stories by E.L. Doctorow. The range of diversity in human personality is infinite. Doctorow certainly comes up with an interesting range of his own in this collection. Eccentric, unusual, quirky, strong, strange, diverse.

My favorite line from all the stories is, "His real father was in the state penitentiary with no parole for the same reason his mother was in the burial ground behind the First Baptist Church."
I love Doctorow's stories in themselves; they travel and twist along as real life downs but darker than most of us will ever thankfully live. My only issue is that he has the pretentious need to deny the tenants of syntax and grammar--he has "learned the rules" and now he can break them. It distracts me from time to time but the stories themselves make up for it. Jolene: A Life, is by far the best short story I have ever read.
I generally don't enjoy short stores because I don't feel that they do quite as well with character development, which is what makes fiction fun for me. However, Doctorow rights incredibly well and thus succeeds in making you like the characters even in these brief stories. Unlike many of the previous reviewers, I actually liked the first three stories far more than the popular last two - to each his/her own, I guess.
Mary Ann
This is a book of short stories, have not read all of them yet. Obtained this copy when I attended a Reading/Book Signing with my daughter in 2005. Was a great experience.
06-05-11, have read 2 of the 5 stories so far, they do not disappoint.
08-13-11, I have finished reading the stories, wow, they are all very good; but I think my favorite is "Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden"
From the mysterious House on the Plains to the comic Baby Wilson (or as much as baby kidnapping can get comic) to the moving Jolene: A Life - EL Doctorow brings a gentle ironic voice to a selection of short stories that examines life in the US over the past century. The characters and plot are meticulously observed and beautifully written.
I've only read two Doctorow novels (one was okay, one I was bored with) but these short stories are amazing. The writing is brilliant and the characters are really interesting. Baby Wilson and House on the Plains are my favorites. The only downside to this book is that there are only six stories. I wish he'd write more short fiction!
I don't usually read short stories.They were interesting.
Curtis Rhodes
I rarely read short stories, especially by an "important" writer because they are usually pompous, incomprehensible crap. Not so Doctorow's Sweet Land Stories. I found the five stories to be completely engrossing, extremely readable and wonderfully imaginative.
Nov 01, 2010 Daniel marked it as not-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As one might expect of Doctorow, the title is ironic. In settings that range across the U.S., most of the alienated characters in the five stories here find life anything but sweet as they struggle to surmount the stigmas of poverty, lack of education and
I liked the last 2 stories: "Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden" and the one about a cult. The first 3 drag you through the gutter to their grim conclusions. These are not "oh, sweet land of liberty, everything about you is beautiful" stories.
Jim Pozenel
The first story was by far the best in my opinion. Upon finishing it, I was looking forward to more great stories. I think the editors shouldn't have put the best story first because the others, though good, seemed like a let down.
The rating is all for the last story in this collection which is called "Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden" and is about the most accurate depiction of Houston you could get. Warning: not for republicans.
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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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