Monday, April 11, 2011

English Department Welcomes E.L. Doctorow

E.L. Doctorow reading at Funger Hall last week.
E.L. Doctorow's campus visit and reading last week were a high point of the spring semester for the English Department. Doctorow visited Prof. Faye Moskowitz's Jewish Literature Live class in the morning, talking to students about his novel The Book of Daniel, and then gave a public reading to more than 200 people gathered in Funger 108 in the evening. In between, he attended a dinner thrown in his honor at the F Street House, where members of the department were joined by President and Mrs. Knapp, Provost Lerman, Dean Barratt, and various Trustees of the University, including JLL supporter David Bruce Smith, in celebrating Doctorow's many achievements.

GW Today has a piece about Doctorow's visit (we are shamelessly sampling their photo above); here is an account by Paula Mejia, the English department student blogger:

Last Thursday, I had the unbelievable opportunity to attend a reading and a conversation with distinguished Jewish American author E.L. Doctorow. I'm going to go ahead and admit that I didn't take great notes- I found myself too enthralled by Doctorow's story and words- but I'll try to describe it as best as I can!

After a brief introduction by Prof. Faye Moskowitz, who had set up the event as a part of her Jewish Literature Live course, a humble Doctorow approached the stand amid a lecture hall of thunderous applause. "I've never been compared to Sinatra before," he said sheepishly, referring to Prof. Moskowitz's equation of her "giddiness" at introducing Doctorow to her giddiness, as a young woman, at Frank Sinatra. He then briefly introduced "Writer in the Family," the story from his new collection All the Time in the World. Doctorow connected with the audience by speaking about how "Everyone always talks about the writer in the family, which can be embarrassing."

After the reading, Doctorow answered questions from the audience. He spoke about evolving as a writer--where images, phrases, and pieces of music were the "evocative feelings that incited the private excitement in the mind." He offered advice to young writers, saying that he had no aesthetic manifesto. "Give yourself to the writing and trust it. Ideas are always there--we carry them around."

But perhaps the most compelling of questions, at least for me, was the first one.

"How much of what you write is true?" called a voice from the crowd.
"Does it sound true?" replied Doctorow.
"Well, yes."
"Then it is true."

-Paula

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