Friday, April 23, 2010

Recent Reading: E.L. Doctorow's Civil War Novel 'The March'

AltTulsa has been a fan of writer E. L. Doctorow for many years, at least as far back as his acclaimed novel Ragtime.

Those readers with good literary memories may remember that Ragtime was made into a powerful movie, which, like the book, incorporated fictional characters and real historical characters (Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie) into a searing tale of power, violence and racism in New York. 

The March, published in 2005, is Doctorow's take on Gen. William T. Sherman's infamous "march to the sea," a devastating campaign that laid waste to a wide swath of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Doctorow creates a set of memorable characters who experience the war from different perspectives. We were particularly taken with the regal regimental surgeon, Dr. Sartorius and the former slave girl, Pearl. In Doctorow's capable hands, these and other characters make a compelling and moving story.

Doctorow also imagines the mental and emotional life of Gen. Sherman, a man widely despised in the South to this day. Doctorow's portrait of the man won't satisfy die-hard Southerners, but it does humanize the man and give a sense of Sherman's restlessness and turmoil.

The March tells an important American story. Get a copy and spend some time with Doctorow in the Civil War.

By the way, we met Doctorow in Tulsa a few years ago when he was at the Tulsa City-County Library to receive their Helmerich literary award. Good choice.


Ron and Vi said...

Your story inspired me to run to my Library and check out "The March". Although I live in New Mexico now, my fond memories of raising my children in Tulsa are our visits to Florence Park Library (no more) and Central. We were fortunate to meet Larry McMurtry when he received the Helmerich Award. Awesome library system, Tulsa County!

TedTheCat said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I picked up a copy at Gardener's Used Books. I read Ragtime a long time ago and liked it.