Book Quote:

“I don’t belong here. I am outside this realm. If I were inside this realm, I wouldn’t feel this way.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (MAR 22, 2011)

E.L. Doctorow is without a doubt one of the most critically acclaimed authors publishing in America today. He has enthralled us with Ragtime, mesmerized us with Homer & Langley, snapped us to attention with The March, and provoked us to think outside of the box with The Book of Daniel.

But even though I’ve periodically read his short stories in The New Yorker, I never quite viewed him as a “short story writer.” Well, after finishing All The Time in the World, that perception has definitely changed.

Stylistically, Doctorow has been described as a nomad, leaping across styles and genres and this collection is no exception. The reader must dig hard to discover a thread that connects these disparate stories, finally deferring to Doctorow’s own judgment as defined in the preface, “I see there is no Winesburg here to be mined for humanity… What may unify them is the thematic segregation of their protagonists. The scale of a story causes it to home in on people who, for one reason or another, are distinct from their surroundings – people in some sort of contest with the prevailing world.”

Take these stories for example: an affluent lawyer at the end of an ordinary workday decides to become an observer of his own life, hiding within feet of his wife and twin daughters. As he pares his life down to the bare essentials, it is only the thrill of competition that brings him back once again.

A husband and wife – who have elevated verbal sparring to a fine art – see their relationship exposed in bare relief when a homeless poet who once lived in their home enters their life.

A young immigrant, with aspirations to produce films, takes a dishwasher’s job in a criminal enterprise, and agrees to marry the top honcho’s beautiful niece for money. Yet this mercenary decision entangles him in a greater emotional involvement than he ever expected.

A teenage boy named Jack – the writer in the family – is prevailed upon by an aunt to write letters to his ancient grandmother in the voice of his recently deceased father…until he comes face to face with his father’s real dream of life.

And, in the eponymous final story, an urban citizen, out for a typical morning run, no longer recognizes his city and suspects that a nefarious Program has put him there without his consent.

These wide-ranging pieces span time, American geography, and social strata: they’re set in New York City, a nameless but instantly recognized suburbia, the deep south, the Midwest. They move from the late nineteenth century to a moment in the future. They are populated with disenchanted lawyer, a down-on-her-luck teenager, an increasingly cynical priest, even a son of a serial murderer. They sing with tension, poignancy, and authenticity. And they evoke the past, present and future in ways that are both mysterious and familiar.

In short, this is yet the latest indication that E.L. Doctorow is an author not only for our times, but for all time. The book contains six memorable stories that have never appeared in book form combined with a selection of beloved Doctorow classics.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 10 readers
PUBLISHER: Random House (March 22, 2011)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


Movies from books:

March 22, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Short Stories

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.