Read The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow Online


As Cold War hysteria inflames America, FBI agents knock on the Bronx apartment door of a Communist man and his wife. After a highly controversial trial, the couple go to the electric chair for treason despite worldwide protests. Decades later their son, Daniel, grown to young manhood, tries to make sense of their lives and deaths - and their legacy to him. Like millions ofAs Cold War hysteria inflames America, FBI agents knock on the Bronx apartment door of a Communist man and his wife. After a highly controversial trial, the couple go to the electric chair for treason despite worldwide protests. Decades later their son, Daniel, grown to young manhood, tries to make sense of their lives and deaths - and their legacy to him. Like millions of other Americans, he is attempting to reconcile an America based on the highest human ideals with the tragedy of his parents. This is the framework for E.L. Doctorow's dazzling masterpiece, as he fictionalizes an actual social and political drama to create an intensely moving, searching, and illuminating tale of two decades, two generations, and a troubled legacy of passion and purpose, martyrdom and meaning....

Title : The Book of Daniel
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780452275669
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Book of Daniel Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-06-17 17:11

    Governing emotion : white-hot angerUnderneath that : confusion (for the characters, for the reader)Style : I’m EL Doctorow and it’s 1971 and society is caving in and I’m gonna put anything I like in my novel, chunks of political analysis, satires of hippy revolution, childhood memoir, denunciations of the old left, lists of candy bars I once ate. And I'm gonna drop from first person to third person and back again sometimes in mid-sentence. Live with it, baby! This is the way novels are these days,you got to write each one like it might be the last novel ever.So this is a fictionalised version of the story of the Rosenbergs who were executed for treason in 1953. ELD changes all the names and details around slightly. I would say it’s made up of 30% Daniel’s memories of childhood and the great dramas playing around the heads of him and his sister; 40% the story of the mother & father; and 30% Daniel’s present day life & times - he is now a hippy revolutionary and his sister is in a mental hospital. ELD's daniel is a very nasty young man. You can see why he might have a few chips on his shoulder, but really, he seems quite close to being unbalanced. At many points in this book I wouldn’t have minded throwing the switch myself, so long as uber-angst Daniel was in the chair. This sourest, most rancid of political novels disgorges the most stupid parts of the red scare 50s and the radical hippy 60s into a blender and the gunk we are then served with is poisonous, it reeks with all the least attractive aspects of people, of American people, no one comes out of this shitstorm looking pretty. I had a hard time liking this book. I liked it in short sharp surges, there are sweeps of bristling bellowing rhetoric, but these are usually felched into a rictus of pain by the time you turn the page. If anyone smiles in these 386 pages it’s because someone has died. It’s all a bit angst. Daniel has angst in his pangst.AUDACIOUS AMERICANSI like to say to anyone in earshot that the difference between American and British art is that we British have the history but those Americans have the geography. It’s one of my sayings. They have the broad sweep of the present, to match the broad sweep of their land - we have the intricate knowledge of the past. Or : they have the confidence from which we have now withdrawn. Or : they now have the empire which we relinquished. It’s kind of true – look at the fantastic boldness of some American authors with their huge projects to write out the secret (read “real” or “underground”) history of America – DeLillo in Underworld, Ellroy in his trilogies, going back further Vidal in his presidents series. British authors just don’t do that. The Book of Daniel falls into this bold brash genre. So I admire it. I also admire the audacity of ELD – right at the end, when, in classic Hollywood fashion, our flawed hero Daniel is chasing down our deadly villain, the government stooge Mindish, he suddenly stops the narrative for a six page essay on the cultural ramifications of Disneyland. I also admire the large areas which aren’t explored in this novel, like Daniel’s awful treatment of his wife. Loose wires hang out all over the place. PAUSE FOR THOUGHTThis novel’s present is 1967, twelve years after the execution of Daniel’s parents. In the 20th century the speed of cultural change could be breakneck, and often skews my own view of history. The Red Scare was 1947-57 roughly – but a mere eight years later the hippies began and by 1968 everything looked completely different. Within the 1960s, the changes were hectic, irresponsible, giving us all the bends - Beatles yeah yeah moptops in 1963 turning to druggy beardy mystics by 1969; things were common by 1970 which couldn’t have been conceived of in 1960. 12 years separates the past and the present of this novel but it seems like 50. It’s disorientating. Things don’t seem to move so fast these days, or is it me?STARSIt’s not easy to like. You end it feeling like you’ve been yelled at for several hours. Your head is ringing. Four stars for ambition and for getting the thing done.Two stars only for enjoyability.I should compromise with three, then. Four stars it is.

  • Solistas
    2019-05-21 14:14

    "Κάθε άνθρωπος είναι ο εχθρός της χώρας του. Κάθε χώρα είναι ο εχθρός των πολιτών της"Είναι δύσκολο να φανταστώ πως υπάρχει συγγραφέας που γράφει καλύτερα ιστορικά μυθιστορήματα απ'τον Doctorow (έχω βέβαια μια αδυναμία στην παρέα των Ιταλών που υπογράφουν ως Luther Blissett/Wu-Ming) αλλά αυτό μάλλον συμβαίνει γιατί ο Αμερικανός είναι ένας χαρισματικός γραφιάς, κάτι που αποδεικνύεται περίτρανα στο πραγματικά δύστροπο Βιβλίο του Ντάνιελ (τέταρτο δικό του που διαβάζω αν κ έχω ξεκινήσει ένα ανεπίσημο project να διαβάσω τα άπαντα με τη σειρά κ έτσι να ξαναδιαβάσω Ragtime κ Παγκόσμια έκθεση που δεν θυμάμαι ούτε πως μου είχαν φανεί). Ο Doctorow πιάνεται απ'τη περιβόητη εκτέλεση των Ρόζενμπεργκ όπου με ελάχιστα στοιχεία εκτέλεσαν το ζευγάρι με την κατηγορία της εσχάτης προδοσίας, κ αφηγείται την ιστορία αυτών που έμειναν πίσω, δηλαδή των δύο παιδιών τους που δεν κατάφεραν ποτέ να ξεπεράσουν όσα τους επιφύλαξε η ζωή μετά τη σύλληψη των γονιών τους.Με τον Ψυχρό Πόλεμο να βρίσκεται σε πρώιμο στάδιο, η ολοκληρωτική εκκαθάριση της αριστεράς της Αμερικής έχει ξεκινήσει κ σε δίκες παρωδία που βασίζονταν σε καταθέσεις ανθρώπων υπό μεγάλη πίεση για τη ζωή τη δικιά τους κ των οικογένειων τους, ο ένας κομμουνιστής μετά τον άλλο κατέληγε στη φυλακή ή την ηλεκτρική καρέκλα. Ο συγγραφέας περίτεχνα κ αλλάζοντας χώρο, χρόνο, πρόσωπο ακόμα κ στην ίδια πρόταση, αφήνει τον Ντάνιελ να παλέψει να διατηρήσει τη μνήμη ζωντανή, σκηνικό που γίνεται εντυπωσιακό για τον απλούστατο λόγο ότι κι αυτός είναι ένα κάθαρμα με τη σειρά του που φέρεται άσχημα στις γυναίκες της ζωής του (κι όχι μόνο), αν κ ο Doctorow φροντίζει με λεπτό τρόπο να ξυπνήσει ανεπαίσθητα ίχνη συμπάθειας κάθε φορά που επιστρέφει στην περίοδο της παιδικής του ηλικίας.Δεν μπορώ να κρύψω ότι υπάρχουν μέρη στο βιβλίο που κυλούν με δυσκολία (με διαφορά ήταν το πιο ζόρικο βιβλίο που διάβασα τον Αύγουστο κ διάβασα πολλά) αλλά έτσι κ αλλιώς δεν είναι ζητούμενο για μένα ούτε η ευκολία ούτε η ταύτιση με τον ήρωα, δεδομένα που ίσως αποτρέψουν επίδοξους αναγνώστες, όπως μάλλον έχει συμβεί γενικότερα με τον Doctorow που δεν χαίρει της εκτίμησης που του αναλογεί ως ένας εκ των κορυφαίων αμερικανών μυθιστοριογράφων. Στο δικό μου κώδικα αξιολόγησης εδώ υπάρχουν μερικά απίθανα αποσπάσματα όπως η συνάντηση του Ντάνιελ με το δειλό φίλο της οικογένειας του που πρόδωσε (κ με το παραπάνω) τους γονείς του στη Disneyland. Κι επειδή δεν μπορώ να το μεταφέρω αυτούσιο κλείνω με αυτό:"...Όταν είσαι φτωχός, δεν παίρνεις ρίσκα. Όταν κάθε σεντ μετράει κι ο κόσμος χρειάζεται οποιονδήποτε μπορεί να βοηθήσει, δεν κάνεις σεξ. Κ που να το κάνεις, άλλωστε. Η αλήθεια είναι πως, αν μπορούσες θα το 'κάνες. Μαθαίνεις την τέχνη της συντροφικότητας, το βαθύ νόημα που έχει το να κρατάς το χέρι του άλλου, ή πως σε κοιτάζει εκείνη σε μια στιγμή ευτυχίας κ πώς νιώθεις αυτή τη ματιά ώς κάτω κάτω στο υπογάστριό σου, ή πως να της πεις αυτά που σκέφτεσαι, ή το ωραίο της στοματάκι, ή πως μαθαίνεις όλα της τα λιγοστά ρούχα, ή τις άσχημες στιγμές που είσαι μόνος κ κατηγορείς τον εαυτό σου που αφέθηκες να τη θεωρήσεις τόσο σημαντική αυτή την κυρία, αυτή τη μικρή επαναστάτρια, που νιώθεις να κοκκινίζουν τ'αυτιά σου καθώς πασχίζεις να τη βγάλεις απ'το άχρηστο κ διεστραμμένο σου μυαλό, κ με τη δύναμη της θέλησης να επενδύεις αυτή σου την ενέργεια στην επανάσταση - δε σκέφτεσαι τη δύναμη αυτής της κοπέλας. Μόνο την τρυφερότητά της..."

  • Sarah
    2019-05-20 15:02

    I bring this book almost every time I talk to writers or editors. The story was almost secondary to the incredible way the book was written. I wonder though if someone could read this alongside Atlas Shrugged and have a nervous breakdown, or an epiphany. Maybe both. The way point of view and tenses shifted so fluidly was really something to study. If an author ever wonders why his switches in either aren't working I direct them to this book to see why this one worked so well. I ask editors all the time what they would do if they got something like this. I still wonder if this would be published today, or if the agents and editors who came across it would just say it was "confusing." There were some exceptional bits of sex writing in here as well. Often sex in literary novels is so bland and here it was disturbing, erotic, embarrassing and awful, often at the same time. This is a must read for anyone interested in the craft of writing, politics or history.

  • Patrick
    2019-06-15 14:02

    This is a fictionalised account of the execution of the Rosenbergs told through their son a decade later.ELD shifts the perspective and addresses the relationship between the sovereign state and the individual,modern American history,it's politics and movements and its judicial system and of course the Cold War.The characterisation and dialogue are strong.Written In 1971 the themes of this novel may still be relevant in modern America.

  • Derek
    2019-05-30 19:15

    ***SIGH*** Damn. Wow. What a novel. What a work of genius. Wow. Without a doubt this must be one of the greatest literary masterpieces ever written. The Book of Daniel is a work of genius like no other. It's sad and harrowing and breaks your heart with its sincerity cruelty, and deft perception and revelation of the human condition striped of all pretensions. It's a political novel, but that's not all it is. It's a novel about family, but goes well beyond that marginal construct. It's all encompassing! And as for the style, wow! Fiction writing teachers must be flipping out when they read this, for it breaks all their feeble rules about style and point of view, etc, etc., but the truth is only a writer like E. L.Doctorow could've attempted a novel like this, there's no one I can think of who could try this and pull it off. Bravo. This is a work that will resonate with me for a long time whether I reread it a million times or not.

  • ☮Karen
    2019-06-12 16:53

    The Rosenbergs'  trial and executions took place before I was born, and I had only a passing knowledge of their story heretofore. The couple left behind two little boys who I assume did not have an easy go at life after losing their parents.  That true story is the foundation of this novel, only here the name is Isaacson and the children are Daniel and his younger sister Susan.  Daniel indeed is affected by the news-making events of his childhood, as he reveals in this "autobiography" which he ends up writing when he cannot find a subject for his dissertation.  I would call Daniel a first class a-hole through most of the book.  He confesses to the ill (sadistic?) treatment of his young wife, his sister, his adoptive parents.  He tells the story of his birth parents and their politics as he remembers it.  How the children came to know that first their father and then their mother were jailed for conspiracy; very sad for the kids.  How they felt that  the children's home in which they were then placed equaled their "jail."  How the case can be, and has been, analyzed to death.I thought the book went all over the place with little or no transition, and it was often too bogged down in details and politics for my tastes. The last third of the book bored me. But I still kept reading (listening) to see what else would happen to Daniel and Susan. And of course it was made 110% better by the narrator, Mark Deakins, my boyfriend.This makes you wonder about the innocents left behind when grown ups go off to change the world. But not a book I'd strongly recommend.

  • Panos
    2019-06-06 18:16

    Το δεύτερο μυθιστόρημα του Doctorow που διαβάζω (πρώτο ήταν το Ragtime). Πρόκειται για αριστούργημα: καλογραμμένο, με σύνθετη δομή και αριστοτεχνική σκιαγράφηση των χαρακτήρων. Περιστρέφεται γύρω από τον ίδιο άξονα με το Ragtime: την επανεξέταση της ιστορίας, όχι βάσει της επίσημης καταγραφής της, αλλά από τη σκοπιά των "έκκεντρων", των καταπιεσμένων και περιθωριακών φωνών. Ο συγγραφέας στηρίζεται αρχικά σε ένα πραγματικό γεγονός και στη συνέχεια υφαίνει γύρω από αυτό το μυθοπλαστικό του σύμπαν.Είναι τυπικό παράδειγμα μυθιστορήματος στο οποίο ιστορία και μυθοπλασία διαπλέκονται και, χάρη στον έντονα μεταμυθοπλαστικό χαρακτήρα του και τη διάχυτη ειρωνεία που διαρκώς υποσκάπτει την αλήθεια και αντικειμενικότητα των ντοκουμέντων (κείμενα δημοσιογραφικά, νομικά κ.λπ.) που εντάσσονται στην αφηγηματική ροή, το έργο επιτυγχάνει να προβληματίσει τον αναγνώστη για την ίδια τη φύση της ιστοριογραφίας: μήπως όσα καταγράφονται ως ιστορία είναι απλώς μια κατασκευή; Μια μυθοπλασία; Στο τέλος του μυθιστορήματος δεν δίνονται ξεκάθαρες απαντήσεις· η αναζήτηση του κεντρικού ήρωα σχετικά με τα γεγονότα του παρελθόντος δεν καταλήγει σε συγκεκριμένα συμπεράσματα. Αυτό που ωστόσο εντυπώνεται με ενάργεια στον αναγνώστη είναι σίγουρα η πολιτική (ψυχροπολεμικό κλίμα και κυνήγι μαγισσών-πρακτόρων), κοινωνική (εξεγέρσεις, διαδηλώσεις) και πολιτισμική (βλ. σελίδες για τη Disneyland) κατάσταση της Αμερικής στις δεκαετίες του '60 και '70.

  • Summer
    2019-05-22 15:13

    I loved the prose style, and the subject matter was heavy and riviting, but this book suffered from having an utterly unlikeable narrator and from that irritating brand of misogyny that one so often sees in the writing of progressives in that era. Every woman in this book, including the narrator's mother and sister, is described in terms of her fuckability. And let's not forget the sexual violence! I suppose this is supposed to make the narrator levels of complexity, a tortured aspect, a countercultural antiheroic identity, but it really just takes away from the narrative and doesn't support the text. Otherwise, it was a decent read.

  • Fabian
    2019-06-09 18:17

    One Original American classic. (Is there something to denote just how close to the perfect five stars this work truly is?) The type of novel Europeans, Latin Americans, and all other world Masters tremble at. One can say this novel is absolutely magical... Devastating and lifeaffirming. Art-affirming. Definitely my favorite novel by Mr. Doctorow.

  • Jeff Jackson
    2019-05-26 18:08

    One of the great political novels. An emotional jeremiad about the fallout from the Rosenberg spy case and Communist witch hunts, viewed from turbulent perspective of the late 1960s. Much more radical in terms of both structure and content than Doctorow's reputation would lead you to believe. A harrowing howl of a book that's been overshadowed by famous lesser work.

  • Steve
    2019-05-23 16:12

    To date, this is the best Doctorow book that I've read (the other two being Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, both of which left me underwhelmed). But I'm not sure what that signifies? Doctorow, as is usually the case with this author, has latched on to an historical event -- here it is the trial and execution of Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (yes, they were spies) -- changed some names and characters, and built himself a novel. And it's an interesting novel, up to a point. Considering it was published in 1971, the hippie stuff doesn't overwhelm or date the novel. If anything, it complements it. The vehicle of (sometimes confusing) narration is Daniel Isaacson, in the (creaky) guise of a stream of consciousness dissertation. The subject of his story is the Isaacson family during the chilly times of the Cold War (and beyond). Some of these family scenes are quite touching, but at it's best, The Book of Daniel serves as something of an American history lesson, with primary focus on the commie Left. Doctorow, to my mind, doesn't preach, which is remarkable given the times, and Doctorow's own age (41?) at the time of the book's composition. The reader, much like Daniel, is never really sure just what the Isaacsons' actually did (if anything) as far as espionage goes. Were they set up? And by who? The Communist Party itself (in order to protect the real spies)? The FBI? It's all left murky, and that's a good authorial choice.Not so good is the scant space given to Daniel's sister, Susan. I suppose that would of messed with Doctorow's narration, but even then it seems like Daniel would of spent more time telling her story. Especially so since he spends considerable time reminding us that he does care for her (and not always in a healthy way). Then again, I don't know if Daniel is capable of such feelings. He has been so twisted by events (at least Doctorow would have the reader believe it to be the case) that he is left a tragic figure just trying to find his own way in this messed up country. I think I would simply call Daniel an asshole. Early on in the book, he commits an act of sexual cruelty on his sweet hippie wife that I found so reprehensible, so disturbed (as in Paris Trout or Faulkner's Sanctuary), that I had some trouble caring about his whiny bitching and riffing on history (though some of these interludes can be fascinating). Doctorow further compounds this by having Daniel slowly, finally, get it together (a chip off the old block after all!) as the Vietnam war protests kick into gear. Sorry Doctorow, Daniel is still a fucktard in my book. You went there, to some sort of Freudian bullshit land (that you seem to return to again and again in your novels), and you can't bring him back. The novel concludes, very improbably, with a confrontation that is meant to be cathartic, truth-seeking, closing the circle, etc., but instead had me thinking it simply a Bad Move by an author caught in a box. The Book of Daniel is a frustrating example of a novel whose often brilliant parts are greater than its whole.

  • Steven
    2019-06-02 14:57

    Ficitional account of the events surrounding Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Although this book was written much later, it was assigned as part of my "Law and Literature" class in law school to represent the period of the 1950s and it could not have been a better choice.So many people think of the 1950s in America with such fondness as a simpler time wherre things were great for everyone. Well, not really. It certainly wasn't so great if you were black and it certainly was not so great it you were a suspected communist.What I remember most from this book is the passages concerning Disneyland and how Doctorow distilled all that is wrong about it so perfectly. I also loved the passages concerning the transplant of organs. Just wonderful and awesome and one that I immediately loved after reading.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-06-16 15:59

    To hunt hunters need game… And witch hunters need witches… If there are no real witches then the ordinary people may always be dyed as the ones.“It’s too fucking hot. This fucking city is like an oven. You want to know what was wrong with the old American Communists? They were into the system. They wore ties. They held down jobs. They put people up for President. They thought politics is something you do at a meeting. When they got busted they called it tyranny. They were Russian tit suckers. Russia! Who’s free in Russia? All the Russians want is steel up everyone’s ass. Where’s the Revolution in Russia?”And politicos need the stuff out of which they can make their politics… Otherwise everyone will see that the king is naked… And this stuff is common people…

  • Nagisa Furukawa
    2019-06-14 17:49

    What can I honestly say about this book? My words can't do it justice!It was a story, it taught me history and politics of America... It pained me, it caused me to cringe and my face to contort at some events and descriptions and all. It confused the hell out of me because of its multiple narrators: Daniel himself, third person, then Daniel addressing the reader... Reading the book was a labor on its own, I had to be careful and pay attention to ever detail all through the story so that I wouldn't miss a thing... I got mentally tired after reading it, not in a bad way though, in a way a day of hard work that you absolutely love makes you tired...Idk,,, It just was a great a book... It made you feel the pain by using a very realistic, matter-of-fact language, and that is art!

  • Derrick
    2019-05-26 14:13

    Well, the style was certainly a shock to me, as I typically read the classic romantics. I had just finished reading "Death in Venice" prior to this book, where even abhorable acts suck as pedophilia are presented in such a passive way, and with such tact, that they almost seem respectable, or at least understandable. So the overtly upfront sexuality (male dominant sexuality) and courseness of this book sort of smacked me upside the head at first. Once I adjusted I did begin to enjoy the book, though Daniel is pretty hard to like. I ended up having the most sympathy for the lawyers in the book (which is completely shocking and out of character for me), in Daniels adopted parents and the family lawyer.Though my favorite aspect of this book was the historical value; the Red Scare, Russian history, and just the 60s. So much has gone on in this country, and the world, that is glossed over, brushed under the carpet, or just flat out denied, that we should know about, and since the media and schools won't talk about it, it's up to every citizen to go looking and make themselves informed.

  • Ellen Lee
    2019-05-28 16:03

    a stunning book to start off the new year. im inspired, im angry, im so so sad.

  • Bucket
    2019-06-17 17:05

    I really enjoyed the premise here - that Daniel is procrastinating on his dissertation and what we're reading is what he is writing instead. It's clear that he's reliving his and his sister's childhood because it's the only thing he can write while his sister is fading. He unconsciously switches from 3rd person to 1st in his writing and he holds places for vignettes and scenes he wants to add later. He also gets a little meta about the reader, especially when discussing things that make him look bad or weak, and this strikes me as pretty cutting edge in when Doctorow published the book in 1971. Daniel is struggling to come to terms with not knowing the truth about what his parents did. He wants to believe they're innocent, and just victims of circumstance: "In a world divided in two, the radical is free to choose one side or the other. That's the radical choice. The halves of the world are like the two hemispheres of Mengleburg. My mother and father fell through an open seam one day and then the hemispheres pressed shut." He also is struggling with his need for complete control - over his wife, his sister, and his family's story. He needs to know the truth and be in control, even when it hurts those he loves. Along those lines, Daniel is not a nice person. He's pompous and abusive, especially toward his wife and infant son. But he is saved from being unsympathetic by the innocent child version of himself who lives through a nightmare. Doctorow includes many asides in the novel, which are part of who Daniel is, and document his obsessions with the past through a tendency to wax philosophical. They feel like lectures. A man in Daniel's youth talks a while about television: "Look there, what do you see? Little blue squares in every window. Right? Everyone digging the commercials. That is today's school, man. In less than a minute a TV commercial can carry you through a lifetime...commercials are learning units." There is also a long lecture on the downfalls of Disneyland which isn't worth quoting. I did, however, enjoy a musing on technology: "Technology is the making of metaphors from the natural world. Flight is the metaphor of air, wheels are the metaphor of water, food is the metaphor of earth. The metaphor of fire is electricity." Finally, there's a long quotation about prison as a metaphor for death that I want to hold on to: "Who wrote that Russian story, was it Babel or maybe Yuri Olesha, about a man dying in his bed. His death is described as a progressive deterioration of possibilities, a methodical constriction of options available to him. First he cannot leave the room, so that a railroad ticket, for instance, has no more meaning for his life. Then he cannot get out of bed. Then he cannot lift his head. Then he cannot see out the window. Then he cannot see his hand in front of him. Life moves inward, the sensations close in, the horizons diminish to point zero. And that is his death. A kind of prison cell concept of death, the man being locked in smaller and smaller cells, his own consciousness depleted of sensations being the last and smallest cell. It is a point of light. If this is true of death, then a real prison is death's metaphor and when you put a man in prison you are suggesting to him the degrees of death that are possible before life is actually gone. You are forcing him to begin his dying. All constraints on freedom enforce conditions of death. The punishment of prison inflicts the corruption of death on life"Themes: 1950s, 1960s, American communism, family, innocence, Cold War, sex, family legacy, destruction of childhood, sibling love, the obscurity of truth

  • Kaycie
    2019-05-20 17:18

    There was one point in "The Book of Daniel" where I thought that every American needed to read it, and was going to recommend it that strongly. I got THAT into it. TBoD touches on hysteria in America as it pertained to a fictional Rosenberg-like couple as told through the eyes of their son Daniel. This book was also published only roughly a decade out from the Rosenberg executions, so it was written in the heart of the communist hysteria. Crazy good look at hysteria and what it does to people and the justice system, as well as those on the margins of all of this mess (the kids and the people they know, as well as the world afterwards)."The Book of Daniel" took me probably 1/3 of the book to really get into it. The narrator switches from 1st to third person seemingly at random, and is a generally awful person (so super hard to like). This book is also hard. The jumps from past to present combined with the narrator shifts, and the content that it deals with make it one that requires a good deal of thinking. I am so glad I read it, though.For the reviewers who said that Doctorow was pushing a communist agenda, just replace "communist" with "Muslim" and "Russia" with "Middle East", and you'd have exactly the same book but about post-9/11 America. Terrifying yet? Wasn't there somthing about those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it? *shudder*One of many favorite (of many great) quotes: "If justice cannot be made to operate under the worst possible conditions of social hysteria, what does it matter how it operates at other times?"This was my first Doctorow novel, and I knew nothing about him before reading it. What a great choice, and his other books will have a hard time living up.

  • Fatma
    2019-05-20 15:50

    it's gonna be a no from me

  • Kristin
    2019-05-30 15:54

    Brilliant. One of the best books written about the "event" that was the Rosenbergs (read with Kushner's "Angels in America" and [for a heaping of sardonic satire] Coover's _The Public Burning_). Doctorow draws us into questions of self, nation, and other that feel particularly relevant during this time of "patriot acts." A must-read for anyone interested in postwar American lit.

  • Natalie
    2019-06-12 16:06

    Eventually I imagine I will find a novel by a baby boomer about something to do with the 1960s that will not annoy the shit out of me, but that day is not yet here. Also worth noting is the casual misogyny of mid- to late-20th-century male writers. That angry explicitness about sex and the female body, what is that? Am I supposed to be impressed or shocked by it?

  • Brian Kovesci
    2019-05-23 18:49

    It is what it is. A work of fiction which explains, in detail, the life of a man, specifically his relationship with his family. K.

  • Mimi
    2019-06-08 13:48

    There are two parts to this novel that are very hard to reconcile. The first element is an amazing fiction (it was contemporary at the time it was written, although now I'd consider it historical fiction) filled with religious imagery, fabulous thoughts on the Red Scare, the effect of a treason charge on the children of the person, our government's culpability, and the legal process. I'd give this part of the novel 4 starsThe second part was that this novel is extremely cruel, violent, and misogynistic. This part gets a star, maybe.How do you reconcile the two? Judicious skimming is definitely recommended.

  • Stefan
    2019-06-16 20:58

    If there is anything that E.L. Doctorow can be faulted for is his unrelenting ambition. The Book of Daniel is only his second published work, but he does things with it that an author penning his 50th wouldn't, in his or her right mind, pursue. The novel is written as a rough draft for a graduate school dissertation by the book's protagonist Daniel Rosenberg - son of alleged Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his largely autobiographical dissertation Daniel writes about the tumultuous ways in which his parents' wrongful imprisonment has affected him and his family's lives.This is a largely political, and disturbing work that deals with the psychological damage that such a tragic event may have on someone. Daniel grows up to be cynical, sadistic, and selfish, but believes in his heart that it's his right to be so after what had happened, which also makes him a hypocrite. Doctorow's disturbing and detailed accounts of Daniel's sexual perversions are difficult to get past and make it hard for the reader to connect with him. But the book shines when, through Daniel, Doctorow describes the historical setting, the unfairness, and the psychological toll on everyone involved in prose so immeasurably strong, that some of it can bring one to tears.It is a testament to Doctorow's bravery that he would write a book as difficult to readily consume as this, so early in his career. While the narrative perspective is singular (that of Daniel), the book skips back and forth in time, introducing characters that only later get their needed development. While it's difficult to really get lost, some passages of the book are either too symbolic or too abstract, and I was unable to see how they fit into the story. Still, if you're bored by traditional narrative and are looking for a book that has many hidden rewards for the reader, The Book of Daniel should certainly be on your list of must-reads. B+

  • Lennie
    2019-06-05 21:14

    Daniel grew up in a poor family living in the Bronx. His dad, Paul, owned a struggling radio repair business and his mom, Rochelle, was a housewife. Both his parents were full of radical passion and loyal to the Communist Party but for them it was a bad time in history to be “Red”. In America, there was a fear of Communists taking over. Daniel’s parents found themselves being hounded by FBI agents who harassed them with questions and staked-out their home. They even searched Paul’s place of business. Eventually they are accused of conspiracy to commit espionage and then executed. Several years later at age 25, Daniel is trying to understand and cope with these events as he navigates through the tumultuous 60’s and participates in protests that deal with draft-card burning. The Book of Daniel is about a man who searches for the truth about his parents’ deaths and wonders if they were sacrificed for the good of the left-wing party.This is the first time I’ve read a book written by this author. I really enjoyed it and understand that it was loosely based on the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the two Americans who were executed for being spies. While the story addresses the plight of the Issacsons, it really focuses on their children and what happens to these two orphans while growing up after their parents’ deaths. First they are placed in a shelter in which they act out and their behavior is disruptive and then they are finally adopted by a couple but their struggles follow them to their new family. I think seeing how their parents’ deaths affected their lives added a humanistic side to the story. I give this book 5 stars.

  • Molly Jones
    2019-05-31 16:48

    This is one of my all-time favorite books. I've read it at least four times and have enjoyed it more with every read. This book causes one to question what it is to be American--what are our principles and how do we stand by them or abandon them during times of international uncertainty. In Doctorow's fictionalized version of the Rosenberg case, he clearly takes the liberal side of things and implies that the Rosebergs (here, Isaacsons) weren't actually guilty of anything, but instead used as scapegoats--a couple that Americans could point to as what is wrong with Communism. Doctorow tells the story from both third and first person perspectives and with a complex stylistic structure that includes narrative, lists, annotated fictional letters, fictionalized encyclopedic passages, fictionalized dictionary entries, etc. What is most striking, beyond the politics, beyond Doctorow's structure, is the protagonist. This is a story about Daniel, a young man trying to make sense of his life and the world in which he lives. This heart-breakingly well written and in my opinion, Doctorow's best work.

  • Ash Cb
    2019-05-24 19:15

    This has to be one of the most overwhelming books I've ever read. I just started cause of the plot, and I gotta say that it took me a while to adjust myself to the style. I haven't read anything more from Doctorw (and looking forward) but I kind of sense that it is his way: double speeches from the same character at the same time but with different voices, inner reflections, informative summaries, historical refferences (that represented a challenge cause of my ignorance 'bout american political history) and all sort of resources that change your line of thought.The Book of Daniel is gonna move you, is gonna make you cry, make you laugh and get disgusted of the very same human conditions that we all share and we can't deny. I loved it, its now one of my favorite books and has lots of quotes that are going to stay with me for a very long time. It was also significat to me that Doctorow died while I was reading it, felt that even though he was gone, he would remain close as long as I read his work.

  • Charly
    2019-05-26 20:09

    The Rosenberg case is disturbing, revealing of 1950s America, and hugely important to learn about. Go pick up a biography of the actual Rosenbergs rather than this pile of misogyny, pretentious, and hippie-era self-hating PoMo trash. If this were written by Norah Whatshername, everyone would agree that it is sexploitative, woman-hating ridiculousness. Fine, there are touching moments, like when they run away from the institution, and Doctorow is a technically gifted writer: still, a protagonist who doesn't deserve a kick in the balls twice per page makes the prospect of reading a whole lot easier. I don't need my leading men perfect: Double Indemnity, about a depressed, murderous insurance agent, is one of the best films ever made. But we get why he does what he does. Here? Not so much. Hopefully Ragtime is better. The musical is first-rate, at least.

  • Lindsay
    2019-06-06 13:00

    February 2010: This book is not doing much for me so far. It makes me want to punch the narrator in the face. I will probably finish it eventually because it fits in my purse quite nicely, but in the meantime I'll be reading other things, too.July 2010: Okay, I finally made it through this. I think maybe the story might possibly have been interesting, but I was too distracted by wanting to do violence to the narrator to really be able to tell you what happened. He does get beaten up at least once so it does have that going for it. Additionally, the weird switches from third-person to first-person, sometimes mid-paragraph, did not make the book any more approachable.

  • Ian
    2019-05-21 17:58

    For what I thought was going to be a bitter polemic against American society in 1971, I felt Doctorow was surprisingly even handed. The Cold War execution of the Rosenbergs is more than echoed in Daniel Isaacson's parents. But despite the obvious loaded dice of the authorities in stitching up his parents (whether they did pass secrets to the Russians or not is almost irrelevant), their naive communist faith is exposed as much as the fatuous Hippie protests. Daniel's sister's hospitalisation and his wife's submissiveness offer him no challenge to stir and relieve his anger. Told with vigour and rapid changes between 1st and third person, it is an impresive read.