November 4, 2016

E. L. Doctorow Quotes

“A new reader shouldn’t be able to find you in your work, though someone who’s read more may begin to.”

“A period of time is as much an organising principle for a work of fiction as a sense of place. You can do geography, as Faulkner did, or you can dwell on a particular period. It provides the same framework.”

“Books are acts of composition: you compose them. You make music: the music is called fiction.”

“Congress is so beholden to the money that any solution in the general interest will be frustrated and subverted by the corporate interests who feel they will be damaged by progress, fair play and justice.”

“Each book tends to have its own identity rather than the author’s. It speaks from itself rather than you. Each book is unlike the others because you are not bringing the same voice to every book. I think that keeps you alive as a writer.”

“From my undergraduate days, I’ve always been interested in the major philosophical questions that don’t seem to have an answer that everyone agrees on.”

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

“History is the present. That’s why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.”

“I can walk into a bookstore and hand over my credit card and they don’t know who the hell I am. Maybe that says something about bookstore clerks.”

“I did have a feeling then that the culture of factuality was so dominating that storytelling had lost all its authority.”

“I don’t think anything I’ve written has been done in under six or eight drafts. Usually it takes me a few years to write a book. ‘World’s Fair’ was an exception. It seemed to be a particularly fluent book as it came. I did it in seven months. I think what happened in that case is that God gave me a bonus book.”

“I get intrigued by a first lin and I write to find out why it means something to me. You make discoveries just the way the reader does, so you’re simultaneously the writer and the reader.”

“I got married very early, and in no time at all, we had three children. And it seemed to me I had an obligation to support them.”

“I have a number of vices, one of which is moderation.”

“I like commas. I detest semi-colons – I don’t think they belong in a story. And I gave up quotation marks long ago. I found I didn’t need them, they were fly-specks on the page.”

“I like to think of myself as an unmediated novelist – or perhaps a national novelist.”

“I started on computers with ‘Billy Bathgate,’ a little orange screen with black letters. I thought it was really cool, but it actually slowed me up for a while because it’s so easy to revise, I tended to stay on the same page. I’ve learned to discipline myself.”

“I thought I would lose, so I didn’t prepare a speech.”

“I try to avoid experience if I can. Most experience is bad.”

“If we ever find out how the brain works, with all its complexity, then we will be able to build a machine that has consciousness. And if that happens, that is a road to planetary disaster because everything we’ve thought about ourselves, since the Bronze Age, the Bible, all of that will be gone.”

“I’m not the sort of writer who can walk into a party and take a look around, see who’s sleeping with whom and go home and write a novel about society. It’s not the way I work.”

“In fiction, you know, there are no borders. You can go anywhere.”

“In the twentieth century one of the most personal relationships to have developed is that of the person and the state. It’s become a fact of life that governments have become very intimate with people, most always to their detriment.”

“It seems to me that in literature, books have always been answers to other books.”

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

“I’ve outlasted many marriages at Random House.”

“Like art and politics, gangsterism is a very important avenue of assimilation into society.”

“My books start almost before I realise it. Once in a while, some accident causes an idea to rise to the surface and say: ‘now.'”

“My father was the proprietor of a music shop on Forty-third Street, where many of the finest performers and musicians of the day would come to shop. He knew the classical repertoire inside out.”

“My sense of what a book should be has changed so radically. I like to think for the better.”

“My theory about why Hemingway killed himself is that he heard his own voice; that he reached the point where he couldn’t write without feeling he was repeating himself. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a writer.”

“Obama is a great man who’s just beginning to understand the realities. And I’m not just saying that because he reads my books. I would have voted for him anyway.”

“One of the things I had to learn as a writer was to trust the act of writing. To put myself in the position of writing to find out what I was writing.”

“One of the things I had to learn as a writer was to trust the act of writing. To put myself in the position of writing to find out what I was writing. I did that with ‘World’s Fair,’ as with all of them. The inventions of the book come as discoveries.”

“People come out of the mid-west and go to the Ivy League. I kind of reversed the direction.”

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”

“Somewhere along the line the rhythms and tonalities of music elided in my brain with the sounds that words make and the rhythm that sentences have.”

“Suffering isn’t a moral endowment. People don’t always do well under duress, and it seemed to me to be truer to a fellow in that situation to make him angry.”

“The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.”

“The important thing is not to be too comfortable when you’re writing. Noise in the street? That’s good. The computer goes down? That’s good. All these things are good. It has to be a little bit of a struggle.”

“The nature of good fiction is that it dwells in ambiguity.”

“The writer isn’t made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.”

“There are two books that impressed me when I was very young. One was ‘The Adventures of Augie March’ – the idea of having something so generous, and so adventurous and improvisatory. The other was ‘The U.S.A. Trilogy,’ by John Dos Passos.”

“There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.”

“Things that appear on the front page of the newspaper as ‘fact’ are far more dangerous than the games played by a novelist, and can lead to wars.”

“To have the regard of one’s peers is immensely moving.”

“Washington is designed not to solve problems. Congress is so beholden to the money that any solution in the general interest will be frustrated and subverted by the corporate interests who feel they will be damaged by progress, fair play and justice.”

“We’re always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it’s a little raw and nervy.”

“When I’m writing, I like to seal everything off and face the wall, not to look outside the window. The only way out is through the sentences.”

“When you’re working well, you don’t do research. Whatever you need comes to you.”

“When you’re writing a book, you don’t really think about it critically. You don’t want to know too well what you’re doing. First, you write the book, then you find the justification for it.”

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.”

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”

“Writing is immensely difficult. The short forms especially.”

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”