Billy Bathgate Hardcover – Jul 4 1993
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In the Bronx of the 1930s, 15-year-old Billy Bathgate hooks up with a legendary mobster, Dutch Schultz. Schultz becomes an unlikely surrogate parent to the boy, introducing him to the ways of the world and training Billy to follow in his footsteps. After Billy falls for Schulz's latest girlfriend, he begins to question the actions of the mob he was so eager to join. As he seeks to protect the young woman, he gains strength in following his own heart and makes a courageous passage from boyhood to adulthood. E.L Doctorow won the 1990 PEN/Faulkner Award for this novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
During the Depression, street kid Billy Bathgate comes to the attention of his idol, gangster Dutch Schulz. "Billy's apprenticeship to Schulz and his education at the hands of the mobster's minions is related by Doctorow with masterful skill, grace and lucidity of prose, inspired inventiveness of scene and true-voiced dialogue. . . . It is mesmerizing reading," praised PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
From the treatment of the chilling, fathomless rubbing of once trigger-man Bo Weinberg to the not-so clandestine courting and besmirchment of the boss's vacuous if gorgeous moll to the final miserable moments of the brutal Dutchman Schultz himself, Doctorow treats with humanity-impossibly!-the broken characters of this work and that sad age.
New York was full of broken dreams in the 1930s, just as it is to this very day. And crime is nothing if not the pursuit of redemption by the supposedly irredeemable, however improbable, but Doctorow's masterful renditions of historical gangsters resonates with so much vivid texture and of such blazing intensity that resisting hypnotic immersion in Billy's rotten and doomed world is all but impossible.
So make a call to your bookie about that nagging if impossible tip on the trifecta, browse the rejects in the wares of Arnold Garbage for any interesting if malfunctioning finds and, of course, visit sweet Rebecca on the roof overlooking the dismal dystopia, then settle in for a few nights of entrancing otherworldly bliss.
This is by and large just about as perfect a novel as can be had, written by a master in the full splendor of his ability.
Although it is the Dutchman who takes in the boy, Billy is drawn to Dutch's moll sexually, and to the gang's bookkeeper, Otto Berman, emotionally. Otto is the real key to the book. Billy, like Johnson's Boswell, is drawn to the accountant and his philosophy. Broken down, Otto explains to the boy that things like love, loyalty, knowledge, and spirit are meaningless--none of them can be proven. They are all bound by words. To Otto, words are just words. Numbers, however, is the only true language. One and one will always be two. Numbers never lie. (Spoken like a true accountant.) This has an enormous impact on a young boy whose mother is one step away from the nuthouse, and whose father took off years earlier.
I gave this book four stars because I had just finished re-reading RAGTIME, and this came up a little short. On the other hand, maybe RAGTIME was too high a standard to hold it up to. In any event, this is not your typical gangster novel, as I hope this review has made apparent. It is a complex and profound book and should satisfy the most literary appetite.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points.
The character Billy becomes wrapped up in a gang led by an alcohol smuggler, Dutch Schultz, by doing menial tasks. But also he witnesses something brutal with the execution of one of Dutch's betrayers. Doctorow uses the naivety of Billy to accentuate the emotional scenes in the book and the execution in the beginning is merely one example.
Billy is also expressed as an outcast from society trying to find himself a feel like he belongs somewhere. And that is how he gets wrapped up in the gang and never thinks twice about it. He most importantly wants Dutch to like him for its own sake. Other characters in the book are in the gang for ulterior motives from the accountant to the grunts and drivers, that's to be expected. But for Billy, he just wants to be liked.
I thought that the scenes were pretty enjoyable. It's similar to the book of "The Catcher and the Rye" and the famous film "The Graduate" starring Dustin Hoffman who I believe is in the movie version of this book. Reading this book will make you think like a teenager and might even bring back some memories you might have of being unsure of yourself or wanting to be accepted within a group. It should take a week to a couple of weeks depending on the time in your reading sessions.
The plot itself bears much resemblance to countless other mafia stories, filled with shady characters, ruthless hit men, brutal murders, bribing of government officials, and steamy love affairs. The uniqueness lies in the fact that the narrator is a 15-year-old boy, Billy, eager to earn the trust of Dutch Schultz, the mafia kingpin, and his gang. He quickly progresses from simple errand boy, buying cigarettes and coffee, to a position of modest responsibility in this intriguing world of crime. Through Billy's somewhat naïve, innocent eyes, we observe Dutch as he manages his empire, carries out hits against his enemies and disloyal employees, and struggles to evade the attempts of law enforcement to bring him down. The story takes us from New York City to Onondoga, a small town where Dutch's trial eventually takes place. And in the process, we witness the growth of a boy into a young man as he enters a world of big money, intense loyalty, and vindictive violence.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Young Billy is green and fresh at the book's opening, and a seasoned young man by its end. Early in the book, you eagerly learn with Billy, through his neophyte eyes. Read morePublished on Dec 23 2002 by Quickhappy
An engaging story of young "Billy Bathgate," who is enamored with the local Bronx gangsters in the 1930's. Read morePublished on Oct. 12 2002 by S. Griffin
I've only read two of Doctorow's books, this one and _The Book of Daniel_, and this novel is about as far from daniel as you can get (though both are excellent). Read morePublished on March 17 2002 by email@example.com
Great reading. Great prose. Great subject. What more can a reader ask for?
This is about as romantic as the tenements of New York get.
Characters you care about, some with pathos, others with charisma. A historical time and place that is well-drawn and richly detailed. Read morePublished on Dec 25 2001
An excellent tale of an aspiring young street tough's initiation into the dangers and excitment of the gangster life, circa the 1930's, this book captures its era and the... Read morePublished on Oct. 28 2001 by Stuart W. Mirsky