Interview with E.L. Doctorow

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E.L. Doctorow is an American author, acclaimed worldwide. He is a twice Pulitzer Prize nominated author who began his career as an editor and has since taught at various universities including Sarah Lawrence College, Yale School of Drama, and Princeton University. He was given the National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton and in 2012 Doctorow was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame.

Howl: Were your parents very supportive of the literary arts, naming you after Edgar Allen Poe, and how did they affect your writing?

Doctorow: Lots of books in the house, everyone in the family was a reader, mother, father, older brother. So I read too, the Harvard Classics on the living room bookshelf and everything I could get my hands on from the public library. 

Howl: In a high school (Bronx High School of Science) filled mostly with mathematical students, how did the school literary magazine, Dynamo, foster your writing skills?

Doctorow: Dynamo was my first publisher; they printed a story of mine and a poem and even the photograph of a painting I had done. The teacher in charge was a blessed woman, very supportive, very encouraging. That meant a great deal to me. 

Howl: You acted in theater productions at Kenyon College and studied English drama at Columbia University. How did the dramatic arts affect your writing?

Doctorow: I learned to listen to words, to hear their rhythm, their music. 

Howl: How did being a book editor for the New American Library and The Dial Press affect your own editing process?

Doctorow: I became as objective about my own work as I had been about the work of others. 

Howl: Do you have any advice for budding writers?

Doctorow: Read! 

Howl: Who has inspired you as a writer?

Doctorow: Mark Twain, Dickens, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Cervantes, John R Tunis, Howard Pease, CS Forester, Jules Verne, Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Melville, Hawthorne, Poe, Defoe, Fielding, Dumas, Raphael Sabatini, Victor Hugo, Flaubert, Chekhov, George Elliot, Ralph Ellison, Conrad, Kafka, HG Wells, Katherine Mansfield, Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Scott Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Virginia Woolf, E.M Forster, Saul Bellow – and the poets, Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Hardy, Frost, Eliot, Auden, Housman. ,e.e cummings – to name just a few

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