In 1998, Ragtime premiered as a musical on Broadway.
The lavish production cost around $11 million and included fireworks and a working Model T car. Though the musical received mixed reviews, it received 13 Tony nominations.
Ragtime won the Tony for Best Book of A Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Audra McDonald), and Best Orchestrations. It lost out on the Best Musical Award to The Lion King.
Ragtime ran for 834 performances, finally closing on Broadway in January 2ooo. The musical then appeared on West End in London for several months, and it reappeared on Broadway in 2009, running for a couple of months.
As I was reading some of the early pages of Ragtime, I began to notice similarities between E.L. Doctorow’s style and that of Theodore Dreiser (who you may remember as the author of An American Tragedy).
Doctorow’s writing is much better than Dreiser, who has been called one of the “worst best writers of the 20th Century,” but their style of writing–the tone, the structure of their stories, their “voice”– seemed very similar to me. Literally, a few minutes after I thought that, I read this passage in the book…
If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. –Ernest Hemingway
Before I wrap up The Sun Also Rises (review coming tomorrow), I thought I’d take one more look at Hemingway’s writing style.
He called it the “Iceberg Theory,” and it’s a great descriptor of his style.
Essentially, he gives you the facts—those hard facts are the tip of the iceberg floating above water. Everything else—the supporting structure—floats beneath the water, out of sight from the reader.
I can’t read the following passage without hearing the voice of George Costanza’s mother as I read it.
This comes from a letter Hemingway’s mother, Grace, wrote to Ernest after the publication of The Sun Also Rises.
I’m a fan of Doris Lessing.
I’ve never read her work before The Golden Notebook—and I have to say that the book isn’t too bad—but I’m enjoying learning about her even more than reading her book.
She’s a fiery, independent spirit (as is obvious in her thoughts about how to select books to read). The characters in The Golden Notebook—mostly women—reflect that same spirit, and that’s why the book is a feminist favorite.
But Lessing wouldn’t really be independent if she attached herself to a movement or a group of people—isn’t that the antithesis of independence? And maybe that’s why Lessing has shrunk away from calling herself a feminist, or from labeling The Golden Notebook a “feminist Bible.”
This woman is awesome.
She had this to say about the subject in an article she wrote for The Guardian in 2007:
I have seen a terrible book cover, and it is Snow Crash.
What is up with this thing?
I know it was 1992, but was graphics software really that bad? This is a book about advanced technology and the internet, and this is the best we can do with a cover?
A cover that looks like something I might have made in my 10th grade graphic arts class?
Let’s examine. There’s a real guy, not a graphic from what I can tell, running down a hall of some sort toward a light, an open doorway. He’s surrounded by some sort of programming code. How fancy.
Now, maybe I’m missing something here. Since Snow Crash is a kind-of over-the-top parody of the cyberpunk science fiction genre, maybe this cover is a little bit of a parody in itself. Maybe it’s purposefully bad?
But why would a publisher do that? Most readers won’t have any idea of what the book’s about, so this cover would be their first impression. Would they get it? Am I not getting it?
Am I like the Chinese paper that thought this article from The Onion about Kim Jon-Un being named the world’s sexiest man was actually true? I love The Onion. Please tell me I’m not misunderstanding The Onion?
And why am I asking so many questions?
Was this cover inspired by the Six Million Dollar Man?
I know I posted about Hunter S. Thompson’s daily routine just a few weeks ago, and I know he doesn’t have a book on the Time list, and I know I’ve posted a ton about The Great Gatsby in the last few months…but I just couldn’t resist with this one.
I actually think it’s a great idea. You want to know what it’s like to write a great novel? Then write one! I mean, literally pick a great novel and sit down and copy the whole thing. Don’t sell it, of course, or try to publish it, because that would be stupid. But just rewrite the thing.
That’s what Hunter S. Thompson did.
This is brilliant–and entirely accurate. It makes me want to dive into Lord of the Rings this year.
(Via New York Daily News)