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The Book of Daniel (1971)

af E. L. Doctorow

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The central figure of this novel is a young man whose parents were executed for conspiring to steal atomic secrets for Russia. His name is Daniel Isaacson, and as the story opens, his parents have been dead for many years. He has had a long time to adjust to their deaths. He has not adjusted. Out of the shambles of his childhood, he has constructed a new life--marriage to an adoring girl who gives him a son of his own, and a career in scholarship. It is a life that enrages him. In the silence of the library at Columbia University, where he is supposedly writing a Ph.D. dissertation, Daniel composes something quite different. It is a confession of his most intimate relationships--with his wife, his foster parents, and his kid sister Susan, whose own radicalism so reproaches him. It is a book of memories: riding a bus with his parents to the ill-fated Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill; watching the FBI take his father away; appearing with Susan at rallies protesting their parents' innocence; visiting his mother and father in the Death House. It is a book of investigation: transcribing Daniel's interviews with people who knew his parents, or who knew about them; and logging his strange researches and discoveries in the library stacks. It is a book of judgments of everyone involved in the case--lawyers, police, informers, friends, and the Isaacson family itself. It is a book rich in characters, from elderly grandmothers of immigrant culture, to covert radicals of the McCarthy era, to hippie marchers on the Pen-tagon. It is a book that spans the quarter-century of American life since World War II. It is a book about the nature of Left politics in this country--its sacrificial rites, its peculiar cruelties, its humility, its bitterness. It is a book about some of the beautiful and terrible feelings of childhood. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence, and about the relations of people to nations.… (mere)
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Engelsk (22)  Hollandsk (1)  Svensk (1)  Alle sprog (24)
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The Book of Daniel is Doctorow's highly regarded fictional story of the Rosenbergs who were executed for spying in the 1950s. This is the first book of his that I've read and I'm interested in the subject matter, so I gave it a try. It's taken me a long time to get through it; the style is not something I really appreciate and I found a lot of the story inaccessible. I'm also somewhat of a conformist as a reader so I want stylistic choices to be meaningful. For example, I once read a lengthy book without much punctuation. After I got used to it, I enjoyed it. It helped the flow and made the story lyrical (the author was a poet). In The Book of Daniel, the author often switches time frames (no problem with that) but tenses within the same paragraph. Sometimes it's in third person and sometimes first, for no particular reason I could see. It reminded me of Wolf Hall, another book whose subject matter I found very interesting but was stylistically inaccessible.
I guess what I'm trying to say that while I enjoyed parts of this book, it wasn't really my cup of tea. ( )
  N.W.Moors | Feb 18, 2021 |
This is the third novel I have read by EL Doctorow, the first was "Ragtime" which was made into a very good film (James Cagney's last film) and "Billy Bathgate" which I picked up after seeing the film adaptation starring Dustin Hoffman in the role of the gangster Dutch Shultz. Daniel is the story of the two children of political activists who in the 1950s are accused of being spies for the Soviet Union. Rochelle and Paul Isaacsons are members of the Communist party during the time of the Red Scare. They are loosely based on the lives of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were tried, convicted, and executed for working as spies for the Soviet Union. The story is told through the eyes of Daniel with flashbacks. Reading this novel got me interested in learning about who the Rosenberg's were. If you are interested in history the case of the Rosenbergs is a fascinating story.

My favorite part of the book is when Daniel, who becomes a politically active adult, travels to California to find the old friend and accomplice of his parents in an attempt to tie a loose end. He is taken to Disneyland by the old friend's daughter. Before they find this man, Daniel describes the sights of Disneyland through his Left eye. He finds this old friend of his parents , a feeble old man riding a kitty ride in Tomorrowland. I recommend "The Book Of Daniel"

( )
  NAgis | May 6, 2020 |
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. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
Pretty good read; comes with Doctorow's typical changes of perspective without warning and coarseness, but the story is quite gripping about the Red Scare in the 1950s. ( )
  charlie68 | May 31, 2019 |
This was a spellbinding book. In its scope, I found it to be unparalleled. The content, as well as the writing, is very sharp and biting. You see America at its worst here and the ramifications that it insinuates are insidious in their learnings. Great book! I recommend it to everyone who loves fiction-- or at least appreciates it. ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 5, 2019 |
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Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
E. L. Doctorowprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Deakins, MarkFortællermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Hoog, ElseOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet

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for Jenny and Caroline and Richard
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The central figure of this novel is a young man whose parents were executed for conspiring to steal atomic secrets for Russia. His name is Daniel Isaacson, and as the story opens, his parents have been dead for many years. He has had a long time to adjust to their deaths. He has not adjusted. Out of the shambles of his childhood, he has constructed a new life--marriage to an adoring girl who gives him a son of his own, and a career in scholarship. It is a life that enrages him. In the silence of the library at Columbia University, where he is supposedly writing a Ph.D. dissertation, Daniel composes something quite different. It is a confession of his most intimate relationships--with his wife, his foster parents, and his kid sister Susan, whose own radicalism so reproaches him. It is a book of memories: riding a bus with his parents to the ill-fated Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill; watching the FBI take his father away; appearing with Susan at rallies protesting their parents' innocence; visiting his mother and father in the Death House. It is a book of investigation: transcribing Daniel's interviews with people who knew his parents, or who knew about them; and logging his strange researches and discoveries in the library stacks. It is a book of judgments of everyone involved in the case--lawyers, police, informers, friends, and the Isaacson family itself. It is a book rich in characters, from elderly grandmothers of immigrant culture, to covert radicals of the McCarthy era, to hippie marchers on the Pen-tagon. It is a book that spans the quarter-century of American life since World War II. It is a book about the nature of Left politics in this country--its sacrificial rites, its peculiar cruelties, its humility, its bitterness. It is a book about some of the beautiful and terrible feelings of childhood. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence, and about the relations of people to nations.

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