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Creationists: Selected Essays: 1993-2006 Hardcover – Sep 19 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (Sept. 19 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064953
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,606,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
All creationists are mortal. Jan. 3 2007
By Aco - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up at the library, having known of Doctorow's work for years, but never reading it.

These are gathered essays, all regarding the artistic process, E.L.'s own imagination and a critical analysis of particular works.

All of the works and workers are classics. The Bible, Poe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, a terrific imagining of Melville's experience writing Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer + Huck Finn as unfulfilled projects, Arrowsmith, F. Scott, an excellent piece comparing Malraux's L'Espoir and Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls, John Dos Passos' U.S.A., why Harpo Marx stands out among his brothers, the German poet/playwright von Kleist (who I now will look out for), a nice short bit on Arthur Miller, how Kafka's first novel Amerika could be written by a guy who'd never been there, W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants (another writer and book I learned about), a great piece on Einstein's imaginative ability, and a closing essay on The Bomb, the furtive genius that created it and the brilliance it destroyed.

The Bible, poets, gigantic classics, silent comedians, scientists and mass destruction...All are created. Creationists are all mortal, but their creations are immortal.

Doctorow's impressive expertise and reverence for each of his subjects makes for terrific reading, and an education.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A loving look at the creative impulse Jan. 13 2007
By Erica Bell - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"A writer who is not writing is a madman". That's Kafka--one of his letters, I think. Is it the one where he cancelled plans for a country holiday with friends because when a writer is creating, "he must hold on to his desk with his teeth"?

E.L. Doctorow understands. He writes in the introduction to his essays,"A novel or play has its origins in the peculiar excitement of the writer's mind. These are powerfully-felt, even inspired, responses to what may be the faintest or fleeting of stimuli--an image, the sound of a voice, a kind of light, a word or phrase, a bar of music."

Doctorow knows how fleeting inspiration is, and he seeks it from the inspired because he also knows just how damn hard it is to get it right. That's why these essays are so nourishing. He includes Harpo Marx and Einstein in this collection. With Harpo taking words and communicating silence, and Einstein thinking frantically against the limits of age, you'll see why.

His essay on Kafka's Amerika [The Man Who Disappeared] is worth the price of the book. Kleist he approaches more obliquely: where is the glorious dramatist who knew women's hearts so well (Penthesilea, The Broken Pitcher)? Later, he muses over Huck Finn, positing that he was Twain's match, a character wholly beyond Twain's ability, a giant metaphor deserving more than the plot Twain gave him. T.S. Eliot said much the same of Hamlet.

Where Doctorow loves (Kafka, Melville, Marx), he writes movingly, even nakedly. Where his mind is tickled, he is a fierce intellect, more than able to communicate the convergence of time, inspiration, culture, failure--and genius.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
First-rate!! April 25 2007
By Librum - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I can only echo the other positive reviews on this page. The essays in CSE are superb: acutely insightful and beautifully written. Like another reviewer, before I encountered CSE I, too, had known of Doctorow but never read him. I am very pleased to have begun exploring this author's oeuvre with his own reflections on literature and the literary craft. Though I also have yet to read several of the works that Doctorow discusses in CSE, I nonetheless very much enjoyed learning about them and have added them all to my burgeoning list of future reads. Anyone who loves literature will take great pleasure in reading CSE.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Curiously, may be the best Doctorow that I have read Dec 1 2010
By R. M. Peterson - Published on
Format: Paperback
The title is awkward. This book is a collection of sixteen pieces by E.L. Doctorow, most of which are in the nature of literary criticism - introductions and afterwords, reviews, lectures, etc. Doctorow has tried to give them a common theme by positing them as "a modest celebration of the creative act". The effort is a little strained and "creationists" sounds too much like a politicized school of religious belief. But that is about the only ground for faulting the book. It is a wonderful assemblage - eminently readable and insightful. Indeed, it is as good as non-academic literary criticism gets.

The four-page introduction is a superb tribute to stories, from a masterful storyteller:

"Underlying everything--the evocative flashes, the dogged working of language--is the writer's belief in the story as a system of knowledge. This belief is akin to the scientist's faith in the scientific method as a way to truth.
"Stories, whether written as novels or scripted as plays, are revelatory structures of facts. They connect the visible with the invisible, the present with the past. They propose life as something of moral consequence. They distribute the suffering so that it can be borne."

The subjects of the essays themselves are surprisingly diverse - from Genesis to the atomic bomb, Harriet Beecher Stowe to Harpo Marx. Doctorow shows himself to have a mind of uncommon breadth as well as unusual depth. Particularly fine are the pieces on Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville and "Moby-Dick", Sam Clemens and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But Doctorow also is well worth reading on non-American authors such as Franz Kafka and W.G. Sebald.

For example, here is a sentence from his piece on Kafka's "Amerika": "At times Kafka would seem to define the spiritual quest as the struggle to meet one's obligations without too much loss of self-respect." That's about as precise and elegant an encapsulation of Kafka as I have come across in volumes of commentary. And here is Doctorow on Sebald (specifically, "The Emigrants"): "From the modulations of his sentences and the paradoxes built into them, we infer a culture of rarefied sensibility that seems to be the florescence of a dying civilization. * * * W.G. Sebald is an elegist."

Curiously, CREATIONISTS may be the best book by Doctorow that I have read, with the possible exception of "Ragtime" - which I am now spurred to go back and re-read.
Five Stars July 8 2014
By J R - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Thought provoking insight into genius

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