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Wealthy, Old, Constipated Guys From Ragtime

Even though I’m not a huge fan of Ragtime, the book does have its fair share of funny passages. I shared one with you on Tuesday. Here’s another one.

This passage describes a meeting between JP Morgan and several other famous wealthy businessmen from that era.

Once, years before, he had arranged a dinner party at his residence on Madison Avenue in which his guests were the dozen most powerful men in American besides himself. He was hoping the collected energy of their minds might buckle the walls of his home. Rockefeller startled him with news that he was chronically constipated and did a lot of his thinking on the toilet. Carnegie dozed over brandy. Harriman uttered inanities. Gathered in this one room the business elite could think of nothing to say. How they appalled him. How his heart quaked. He heard through his brain the electric winds of an empty universe. He ordered the servants to place garlands of laurel on every pate and crown. Without exception the dozen most powerful men in America looked like horse’s asses. But the pomposity that had accrued with their wealth persuaded them that perhaps these ridiculous vines held some significance. Not one of the women thought to laugh. They were hags. They sat on their large draped behinds, breasts drooping under their décolletage. Not an ounce of wit among them. Not a light in their eyes. They were the loyal wives of great men and the hard pull of rampant achievement had sucked the life out of their flesh. Revealing nothing of his feelings Morgan hid behind fierce and doughty expression. A photographer was summoned to make a picture. There was a flash–the solemn moment was recorded.

Keep in mind, this is historical fiction. All of that occurred in the mind of E.L. Doctorow.

Nonetheless, the visual makes me laugh. Apparently, all these wealthy men had ugly wives. And though they were some of the wealthiest men of their time, they must have suffered from many of the same physical issues as we do, like constipation. Great writing.

That about wraps up my posts on Ragtime. I’ll post my review on Tuesday.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. …and that is why I put this book aside. Doctorow’s funniest writing is B.O.R.I.N.G. I am thinking the list compilers at Time need their heads examined.


    May 2, 2013
    • I get the sense that you don’t appreciate a nice, dry sense of humor, Greg?


      May 2, 2013
  2. It seems a rather negative portrayal of the people described. I have a hard time believing that such a group wouldn’t do something ridiculous, like roller derby (or whatever the time’s equivalent was).


    May 2, 2013
  3. seranbk52 #

    watching rich people pass by can make you think they are the most brilliant ones we know but i guess this proves us wrong.


    May 7, 2013
  4. arpanperpus #

    Reblogged this on perpustakana museum sejarah jakarta.


    June 2, 2013

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  1. Rest In Peace, E.L. Doctorow | 101 Books

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