E. L. Doctorow, Literary Time Traveler Who Stirred the Past Into Fiction, Dies at 84
His was a family of readers; he was named for Edgar Allan Poe, a favorite of his father’s.
“Actually, he liked a lot of bad writers, but Poe was our greatest bad writer, so I take some consolation from that,” Mr. Doctorow said in 2008. “He died many years ago. My mother lived into her 90s, and I remember asking her in her old age — I finally dealt with the question of my name — “Do you and Dad know you named me after a drug-addicted, alcoholic delusional paranoid with strong necrophiliac tendencies?’ and she said, ‘Edgar, that’s not funny.’ “
Young Edgar learned the persuasive power of fiction at an early age. In a story he often told, in the late 1940s, he fulfilled an assignment in a journalism class at the Bronx High School of Science by writing a profile of Carl, the stage doorman at Carnegie Hall, filling it with such persuasive and poignant details that his teacher wanted to run it in the school newspaper. When it was time for a photographer to take the man’s picture, however, Edgar had to confess that there was no Carl the doorman; Carl was an invention.
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