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Loon Lake

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  1,166 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
The hero of this dazzling novel by American master E. L. Doctorow is Joe, a young man on the run in the depths of the Great Depression. A late-summer night finds him alone and shivering beside a railroad track in the Adirondack mountains when a private railcar passes. Brightly lit windows reveal well-dressed men at a table and, in another compartment, a beautiful girl hold ...more
ebook, 180 pages
Published September 22nd 2010 by Random House (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

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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
Christian Schwoerke
I read this book only a little more than two weeks ago, but when I recall its various, disparate episodes and characters and how they may be made to cohere, I find myself going back to the book’s final image. Meanwhile, the real conclusion to this novel-cum-dossier about characters in the orbit of Loon Lake is the bio/CV of Joseph Korzeniowski aka Joe of Paterson or Joe Paterson. The final words in this CV—“Master of Loon Lake”—serve to caption the fore mentioned final image: Joe Paterson lollin ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jan 10, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 31, 2014 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nick Jones
Aug 21, 2013 Nick Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 29, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Mar 22, 2013 Toolshed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first, I was very surprised with Loon Lake because I didnt 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, Im 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 Barthelmes Dead Father), so this innovati ...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.
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 21, 2015 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book during a week on a Maine lake that has several resident loons. In spite of its bucolic title, the book is a scathing commentary on free-market capitalism and the complicated human motivations that hold us in its grip. There's a hallucinogenic quality to some of the passages that can make the story line and characters hard to keep hold of, but the craftsmanship suggests this was the author's intent. The main character he creates is a sort of dark and perverted version of a classi ...more
Louis Roos
Apr 27, 2013 Louis Roos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 16, 2010 Janice rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Lola Brown
Feb 09, 2015 Lola Brown rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give it a 0. Doctorow is the king of run-on sentences and incorrect grammer. He jumps form 1st person to third person. With all the grammer errors, this book is hard to follow. There seems to be no plot as he jumps all over. I read it because it was a bookclub book. What a waste of my time.
Ankeyt Acharya
Don't know what to say of this book. The reviews made me pick it up, but "aaaghhh". The writing is somewhat weird, and even if you get past that, the narration is confusing. Maybe I'm not made out to read this kind of book, but I'd read it again only if I have absolutely nothing to read.
Craig Amason
Nov 01, 2010 Craig Amason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 24, 2017 STEPHEN MACPHERSON rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The style utilized by Doctorow in Loon Lake can be distracting. He shifts from first to second to third person (sometime within the same paragraph), limits comma usage and other rules of punctuation, and uses stream of consciousness to, in spots, tell the story. Occasionally, a non traditional way of writing can be used to cover up a lack of substance, a lack of a narrative, inventive characters, and plot. That is not the case with Loon Lake, because the story of Joe of Patterson, is interesting ...more
John Hubbard
Joe Paterson (Korzeniowski) of Paterson, New Jersey is a man of the road. His last real job before stumbling upon Loon Lake is with the carnival as a roustabout, about which we get the horrifying tale of the Fat Lady. Paterson, traumatized, leaves civilization and wanders into the wilds of the Adirondacks. He comes upon a complex of buildings and is attacked by wild dogs. Regaining consciousness a few weeks later, he finds himself amongst the staff of Loon Lake, the resort/getaway of F.W. Bennet ...more
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
Jan 22, 2017 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doctorow makes you think. This is not a quick read, you have to read digest and contemplate. Words and paragraphs are disruptive. The pace is uneven from what you expect in a novel to hitting a stone wall of change characters abruptly change and evolve. Is this all good or is it bad. That is for the reader to decide. The ratings of this novel are all over the board and, being a fan of Doctorow, it is what I would expect. I have found that his writings, especially the experimental ones like this, ...more
Jul 29, 2012 Frank rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Rau
Jan 05, 2012 Christina Rau rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
Sep 21, 2015 Rob rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'd heard that the author passed away, may he rest in peace. I was sad, and to cheer myself up I went looking for another of his books to read, having recently re-read Billy Bathgate, which I found outstanding. Alas, I didn't like this book nearly as much. If you haven't read either, skip this one and read Billy Bathgate instead.

Doctorow didn't feel bound by all of the usual rules of punctuation, layout, and sequence. I can tolerate that from so brilliant an author, but it seemed so pointless fo
Mar 26, 2013 itpdx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 08, 2013 Lori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemp-fic
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
Jun 21, 2010 Joel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2016 Phil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a twisted, varying piece of literature. As always, Doctorow has the ability to place you in the scene down to the smallest detail. I can picture the Adirondacks, the characters, the estate and private rail car as if I were seeing it myself. Where he continues to lose me is his deliberately crazy writing style that makes you consistently question whether you are reading the plot, a dream, a side plot or if you and the characters are crazy. The ending, like most of his endings is weird and ma ...more
Concha Marcos
Sep 09, 2011 Concha Marcos rated it really liked it
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
As a fan of Doctorow's other work (especially Ragtime) I wanted to love this one too. It came along with great review and I was up to the challenge of the experimental nature of the book (shifting narrators and points of view, random poetry, stream of consciousness), but it never lived up to the hype. It was a bit all over the place and tried hard to find its footing, but never really did. It's like the "weird" album every band releases - sometimes it's a "Sergeant Pepper" and sometimes it's not ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Change description 2 16 Jan 04, 2016 04:31PM  
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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
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“Perhaps we all reappear, perhaps all our lives are impositions one on another.” 3 likes
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