Sweet Land Stories by E.L. Doctorow

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One of America’s premier writers, the bestselling author of Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, The Book of Daniel, and World’s Fair turns his astonishing narrative powers to the short story in five dazzling explorations of who we are as a people and how we live.

Ranging over the American continent from Alaska to Washington, D.C., these superb short works are crafted with all the weight and resonance of the novels for which E. L. Doctorow is famous. You will find yourself set down in a mysterious redbrick townhouse in rural Illinois (“A House on the Plains”), working things out with a baby-kidnapping couple in California (“Baby Wilson”), living on a religious-cult commune in Kansas (“Walter John Harmon”), and sharing the heartrending cross-country journey of a young woman navigating her way through three bad marriages to a kind of bruised but resolute independence (“Jolene: A Life”). And in the stunning “Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden,” you will witness a special agent of the FBI finding himself at a personal crossroads while investigating a grave breach of White House security.

Two of these stories have already won awards as the best fiction of the year published in American periodicals, and two have been chosen for annual best-story anthologies.
Composed in a variety of moods and voices, these remarkable portrayals of the American spiritual landscape show a modern master at the height of his powers.

About E.L. Doctorow

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E. L. DOCTOROW was born in 1931 in New York City and was educated at Kenyon College and Columbia University. His earlier novels are Welcome to Hard Times and Big as Life. Formerly editor-in-chief of a prominent New York publishing house, he was most recently writer-in-residence at the University of California at Irvine. He lives in Westchester County with his wife and three children.
Published May 4, 2004 by Random House. 160 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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“Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden” is even better, as a retired FBI agent recalls his investigation of the title incident, the suppression of its details by an embarrassed administration, and a journey to Texas that discloses a defiant gesture aimed at the conscienceless “men who run things.” The ...

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The New York Times

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In a lovely essay he once wrote about popular music, Doctorow described the special quality of songs: ''To cure up life into a lyricized tune is to do tremendous violence to reality, and this is the source of their powerful magic.'' Doctorow's imaginative violence is to conjure strong visions wit...

Jun 27 2004 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories

The Guardian

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For all these protagonists, even the disaffected FBI agent who narrates the closing story, "Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden", the urgent, abiding question is the same one that confronts Lester Romanowski.

Feb 03 2007 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories

Publishers Weekly

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In this knowing treatment of the cynical abuse of power, Doctorow uses the spare, laconic style endemic to thrillers and builds suspense with sure strokes.

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Book Reporter

Doctorow gives us an odd slice of life in "Walter John Harmon" --- cult, commune life, that is.

Apr 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories

AV Club

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Elsewhere, the devoted cult followers in "Walter John Harmon" only think they've found a permanent bit of paradise on earth, while the FBI-agent hero of "Child, Dead, In The Rose Garden" is forced to re-examine his understanding of his nation when a body turns up, as the title suggests, in the Wh...

May 17 2004 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories

Entertainment Weekly

In the improbably beautiful ''Jolene: A Life,'' the masterful 73-year-old author of Ragtime manages to obliterate white-trash cliches with the affecting tale of an orphaned, strawberry-haired teen who bounces from tattoo parlors to stripping poles and divorce court.

May 07 2004 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories


Newly sprung from the capacious imagination that produced Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, the five short masterpieces in Sweet Land Stories are pitch-perfect, the work of a virtuosic storyteller with enormous range.

May 31 2004 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories

Bookmarks Magazine

Matt Weiland Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars "Doctorow finesses the short story form with impressive skill, luring the reader with his trademark compassionate cynicism as he scrutinizes the many versions of a failed American Dream."

Oct 20 2009 | Read Full Review of Sweet Land Stories

Project MUSE

After restoring Baby Wilson to safety, shoeless, dreamy-faced Karen Robileaux starts her own family with the story's narrator in Alaska, where "most people .

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