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Loon Lake

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  1,268 Ratings  ·  87 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
Paperback, 255 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Plume (first published 1980)
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Oct 07, 2009 added it
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
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
Christian Schwoerke
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 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
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
“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
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Let me preface this with this: I LOVE E.L. Doctorow. Loved City of God. Loved Ragtime. Loved The Book of Daniel. So, ok...I didn't LOVE Homer & Langley, but at least I didn't finish the book thinking I had lost my facility to comprehend English.

I wish I could tell you I know what this book is about. There's a con-man/fugitive "protagonist" who is not at all likeable or even interestingly evil. There's a bizarre ladylove who dances in and out of self-respect every chapter or so. The most inte
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 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
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 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.
Lou Maresca
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Thus far on "Goodreads" I have reviewed (27) books; I guess it has to happen that I will write a definitively negative review, which I have not as of yet done. I did not like the way this book was written; the author's writing style clashed sharply with my tastes and sensibilities. Though there was a plot, and it, for the most part, was interesting, aspects of his writing grated on me. To wit.....
* his copious use of egregiously long run-on sentences; I am guessing that he thought that this was
In the summer of 1936, at the age of 18, Joe leaves Paterson, New Jersey with the vague notion of heading to California but detours to the Adirondack Mountains instead where he eventually stumbles onto the rustic estate of a wealthy automobile manufacturer. Loon Lake is a tale of the haves and have-nots set in the heartbreaking early years of labor unions.

Of the five or six incredibly remarkable Doctorow novels I have read, Loon Lake, published in 1980 between his award-winning Ragtime (1975) an
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This depression-era tale takes place at a tycoon's hidden mountain estate. In an ironic twist of Horatio Alger, the poor hero, Joe Korzeniowski of Paterson, New Jersey, becomes Joseph Patterson Bennett, the rich man's adopted son and heir to Loon Lake. Bt hi is corrupted, not empowered by the money.
Craig Evans
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting from a historical fiction point of view and from what I consider a bit of experimental litetary endeavor, with a somewhat surprising ending, but not of the same caliber as nearly all of the other novels that I have read by this author.
Barry Bean
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very difficult read for the first half the book, and arguably too graphic and violent by a wide margin, but worth it for the payoff at the end.
Ari Raliegh
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a whacked out story. A bit grimy and even disgusting at times. It would have to suit your tastes at the time. No one wants this kind of read on the regular.
Donna Dalziel
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Enjoyable read. Wonderful author.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
evocative but pointless. that was it for me and Doctorow
May 24, 2017 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
Jun 22, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Mar 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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 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
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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
“Perhaps we all reappear, perhaps all our lives are impositions one on another.” 4 likes
“He wondered seriously if love wasn't a feeling at all but a simple characterless state of shared isolation. If you were alone with a woman your feelings might change from moment to moment but the circumstance of your shared fate did not change. Maybe that's where the love was, in the combined circumstance.” 3 likes
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