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World's Fair: A Novel Paperback – Jul 10 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 10 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297820X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812978209
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #454,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From School Library Journal

YA The 1930s was a turbulent time for America: the Great Depression, left-wing politics and the growing concern over the rise of Hitler in Europe. As seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Edgar Altshuler, these events provide a backdrop for the more intimate story of his own family and how they coped while living in the Bronx. They serve a symbolic purpose as well as a historical one. On his first visit to the fair, Edgar is enthralled by industry's vision of the futuresafe, secure and prosperous cities, speedy and cheap transportation and modern invention to make life easier. On his second visit, he sees that the exhibits are constructed of gypsum whose paint is peeling and that the displays are really toys. Reality has altered Edgar's perceptionshe is growing up. Edgar's chapters are randomly interspersed with his mother Rose's recollections and a few by his older brother Donald to give a seemingly simplistic view of life that is actually a rich narrative of history, political and personal values and points for discussion. A remarkable book for perceptive readers. Diana Hirsch, PGCMLS, Md.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

E. L. Doctorow’s works of fiction include Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, Billy Bathgate, The Waterworks, City of God, The March, Homer & Langley, and Andrew’s Brain. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, honoring a writer’s lifetime achievement in fiction, and in 2012 he won the PEN/ Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to an author whose “scale of achievement over a sustained career places him in the highest rank of American literature.” In 2013 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction. In 2014 he was honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
E.L. Doctorow is probably New York's greatest literary nostalgia artist. While "Ragtime" recalls the city's colorful population explosion of immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century and "Billy Bathgate" is a boy's Depression-era underworld fantasy, "World's Fair" evokes what it might have been like to grow up in the Bronx in the 1930's. The narrator, Doctorow's voice and presumed alter ego, is a Jewish boy named Edgar Altschuler who is about nine by the time the book ends, so it remains in a state of pre-pubescent innocence without entering into the turbulent years of adolescent awakening.
Edgar is an extremely observant child who is fascinated by the intricacies of the most mundane things and events. Normal kid routines like school, ball games, movies, comic books, and radio programs are described in loving detail as though he were eager to explain to his jaded adult readers what's so special about being a kid. Similarly, tragedies like the death of his grandmother, witnessing a woman getting hit by a car, and meeting terminally ill children in the hospital take on perceptively morbid new dimensions through Edgar's words.
The members of Edgar's immediate family are so realistic they seem like sepia-tinted photographs come to life. His father Dave co-owns a music store and, far from being the moral compass a father's role is traditionally given, is somewhat irresponsible and irreverent, a social activist about thirty years ahead of his time. Edgar's mother Rose is a bundle of anxiety, worrisome and contentious from living in a house full of men. His older brother, Donald, and uncle Willy are both musically inclined, one a failed bandleader, the other destined to be a failed bandleader.
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Format: Paperback
We expect that Doctorow will use some piece of New York City's past as the setting for each of his novels but we also expect that he will give us a story with drama, tragedy or some wry take on the human comedy. In World's Fair he only gives us the view of time past. There is precious little story in this book. It deals with a young boy and his family during the 1930's and concerns itself mostly with ordinary life and the ups and downs of family relations. The story is mostly told by the younger son (who is nine at book's end) as he recounts his earliest memories, preoccupations, dreams, friends, illnesses and enthusiasms, but other characters (his mother, older brother and aunt) all have chapters in which they 'remember' the story from their own point of view. Yet if the plot is thin, the sense of reality generated by the writing is substantial. Doctorow uses the ordinary life of his characters to reflect and represent the broader story of the Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany, the extreme political divisions of the time, the fear of impending war and the great hope in a bright and shiney future free of the dark menace of poverty and repression.
This book kept me focused from the first few sentences. It doesn't demand a lot from the reader but it delivers a great deal. I suspect that there is a great deal of Doctorow himself in his main character. He was born in 1931, so would have been about the right age to experience the music, radio shows, games and other experiences that make up his protagonist's world. He certainly feels strongly about these simple byegone experiences and manages to convey that to the reader. This is a very satisfying glimpse into the life of ordinary but interesting people and I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
This novel was extremely boring yet it portrayed the era of the 1930s extremely well. The characters were very bland and I felt no emotional connection to them whatsoever. The author doesn't reveal enough about the characters real, inner feelings for the reader to love and care about the welfare of these people. In other novels I have read taking place in this era, the novel did move slowly like this story but you felt such connection and compassion toward the characters that you HAD to keep reading. Although the characters were dull, the author did give the reader a good sense of the technology and attitudes at the time. The radio, for example, was shown in its true importance as the main form of entertainment and knowledge, and the rides and structures at the Worlds Fair today would seem timid and lame but back then were seen as impressive and inspirational for the future. Hitler, Nazism, and fascism were also shown well, not only as bad and awful but as something that many people didn't have that strong of feelings toward. Based on just the blandness of the characters I would have given this novel a "C" but because the era itself was shown realistically I give this novel a "B-".
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Format: Paperback
My dad is the same age as E.L. Doctorow, and although he did not grow up in NYC (visited there at times) he says that this novel is a close description of his own experience. It is about a very peculiar ethnic sub-group, New York jews who are not particularly religious and having "modern" ideas and lifestyle. To me Doctorow's book is one well-preserved verbal photograph after another. Somehow he conveys the scenes in a pre-Ektrachrome feeling, where bright colors are rendered in endlessly subtle shades of grey.
I hope that when I am Doctorow's age I will be able to summon up the wealth of memory detail he does. The images are authentically pressed from a the mind of a child not yet 12 years old. There are things that a child notices that an adult would not, such as how he likes how a particular door latch works or details from favorite comic books.
From there the narrative effortlessly moves to other characters in the story, written in the form of letters to the author. Everything is in place, and all of it wonderful to read.
This should be standard reading for any high school.
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