Grandpa Breaks His Pelvis
Ragtime has a dark sense of humor.
The storytelling is dry, even slightly boring at times. There is no dialogue in the traditional sense—no quotes set apart from the rest of the narrative.
Doctorow’s style is unique. And while I can’t say that I’m crazy about the book, I must say I loved the following passage that illustrates his dark humor.
Spring! Spring! Like a mad magician flinging silks and colored rags from his trunk the earth produced the yellow and white crocus, then the fox grape, the forsythia flowering on its stalks, the blades of iris, the apple tree blossoms of pink and white and green, the heavy lilac and the daffodil. Grandfather stood in the yard and gave a standing ovation. A breeze came up and blew from the maples a shower of spermatozoic soft-headed green buds. They caught in his sparse. He shook his head with delight, feeling a wreath had been bestowed. A joyful spasm took hold of him and he stuck his leg out in an old man’s jig, lost his balance, and slid on the heel of his shoe into a sitting position. In this manner he cracked his pelvis and entered a period of health from which he would not recover.
It’s Spring! Spring! Spring! Everyone is happy. The flowers are so pretty. Happy! Happy! Happy! Then grandpa dances, breaks his pelvis, and slowly begins the process of death. Such a buzzkill on Spring, that dancing Grandpa.
I love that passage. It reminds me of the “sentence bomb” term I coined after reading Carson McCullers The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. Within a matter of words, Doctorow goes from blooming flowers to a broken pelvis.
Pretty funny stuff, unless you’re Grandpa.