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Lives of the Poets: A Novella and Six Stories
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Lives of the Poets: A Novella and Six Stories

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  275 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Innocence is lost to unforgettable experience in these brilliant stories by E. L. Doctorow, as full of mystery and meaning as any of the longer works by this American master. In “The Writer in the Family,” a young man learns the difference between lying and literature after he is induced into deceiving a relative through letters. In “Wili,” an early-twentieth-century idyll ...more
ebook, 88 pages
Published December 1st 2010 by Random House (first published 1984)
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(showing 1-30 of 477)
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Peter
Sep 28, 2007 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
ok I randomly picked this up off the library shelving cart because it had the word "poets" in the title. now I am reading it. that is all I have to say about it thus far.

UPDATE: Well I finished this last night. sort of. the short stories were fairly decent. then the 'novella' came along and was pretty mind-blowingly crappy. mayhaps the end of it really wrapped things up nicely and it was better than I thought but I couldn't tell you because I put the book down and decided it wasn't worth the tim
...more
M. D.  Hudson
To my surprise I did not hate this book, because man oh man did I hate Ragtime, which was smug, arrogant and ridiculous (but very easy-to-read and engaging). Doctrow really seems to think good sex was invented in 1967. Never have I felt more sorry for fictional characters, or wanted to rescue them from their dastardly author than I did while reading Ragtime.

Which is to say I had no interest in reading anything else by Doctrow. But a really nice copy of Lives of the Poets turned up in a local th
...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in January 2002.

This collection, one novella and six short stories, is connected because all its contents are written in the first person and read as though they are selections from autobiographies. (The plural is because they are mutually contradictory, even though they share details and anecdotes.)

The title story is the novella, and is a memoir of the New York literary scene, all about the marital difficulties of middle aged couples in the late seventies. T
...more
Elaine
Apr 23, 2014 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of Doctorow's novels, and the short stories just do not come up to that gold standard. Probably the wrong genre for him -- too confining for his sprawling, complex works about key moments/characters in U.S. history. The title novella, Lives of the Poets, however, is a fascinating look at the rambling mind of middle-aged, white, male academic poet and his friends of exactly the same ilk. Lots of sexist talk, drinking, ambition, comfort in privilege. Very revealing and I bet his fell ...more
Phredric
Mar 24, 2015 Phredric rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I enjoyed the first story about the boy writing letters in his dead father's voice but the short stories got less and less concrete. I didn't finish the last short story and I read a goodly chunk of the novella but then gave up. I just couldn't make myself care about the wining whinging writers and his unhappy friends.
Andrew
Jul 30, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people sad that their mistress is having an affair
Shelves: literary
I've never read any other Doctorow, but this was pretty decent. The title novella is the kind of writers-writing-about-writers-writing bullshit that's kind of hard to take seriously, but at least Doctorow can turn a pretty good phrase.
Jennifer Arnold
This seemed to be a writer's experimentation of sorts. First write a bunch of meandering stories, then write an insight into the meandering mind of the writer to tie it all together.
Daryl
Apr 22, 2014 Daryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mesmerizing work of a gifted and mature writer who speaks to the eternal verities of life as a man. And nothing has changed from day one. Reminds me of Bellow.
Jerry Walz
Audiobook.. I prefer a story rather than hours of free expression ramblings.
Kevin
Mar 24, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a collection, this is ambitious, but uneven. Early on, the title novella courts dismissal as one more trip to the well chronicled land of white people's problems, upper middle-class, middle-aged men's division. It somehow manages to transcend this well-trod terrain and deliver something of genuine interest and engagement, only to fumble the whole thing in the last few pages (but don't let that stop you from reading it).
Eric
Jun 01, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not "Ragtime" or "The March," perhaps, but close enough. ELD balances head and heart, smile, nod of recogniton and eyebrow raiser as well as any modern fictionista. Even a head scratcher from time to time. Here, a series of stories and the title novella, is mostly about writers and writing. (And,as always, being human.) Not surpisingly, he gets it and gives it up.
Marina
Not awful, just not great either. I wish the stories were a little more fleshed out, they end too abruptly and the characters mostly fail to make an impression. This book may have suffered by being read directly after I finished Alice Munro's Open Secrets.

Marina
Craig Masten
Oct 31, 2013 Craig Masten rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The paperback I read was deceptively marketed unclear as to it being a novel instead of a book of his collected short stories. Most were pretty strong post modernist fiction, if you're into those difficult reads. I'm not.
Tuula
Oct 06, 2013 Tuula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yellowlibrary, fi
Hmmm, especially liked the first stories of the book. Last part would've required bit of different reading rhythm, to get more aligned to the tone of that part. Interesting snapshots to the life of the characters.
Joslyn
Aug 05, 2009 Joslyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shorts
the novella was the book's big-hitting highlight for me. some things are so true that they crack me open and leave me wavering on the brink gazing at the tragicomedy of life, all teary-eyed and easily heart-broken.
Mike
Jul 03, 2010 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The short stories were throwaways. The title novella was altogether better... although very uneven. In spots, incredibly insightful, in others, incoherent.
Phyl
Aug 10, 2013 Phyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A couple of the stories were five star and others were three star. So I compromised and gave this 4 stars.
Sarah
LOVED the novella. So-so on the short stories. I may have to revise my unreserved good opinion of Doctorow.
Jean
Jan 09, 2008 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
you don't have to read this whole book (although it's good), but read the first story. to. die. for.
Scott Berzon
Only found two of these stories appealing (the novella not being one of them)
Brent Watson
Not Doctorow's best. Very wordy. Novella was very boring.
Dawn Sherlock
a bit dated. . .skip it.
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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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“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.” 9 likes
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