THE BOOK OF DANIEL by E. L. Doctorow


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When asked midway during what promises to be one of the year's singing successes ""Under what circumstances do we suspend literary criticism?"" you will probably answer right now, since Doctorow's book, his third novel and his first in the sense of that wide general reach, submits the reader to a kind of massive exposure (extortion?) which affects the heart and the gut while nullifying the intellect. It is a brutally emphatic and emotional book and welt by scar it revives the whole case of the Rosenbergs, who appear here as the lsaacsons. The old ""pain-bum"" abrades every page as Daniel, the son, goes back and forth from the past to a present which entails the institutionalization of his sister in a state facility (and electro-shock treatment -- i.e. Mr. Doctorow wires the whole story for voltage of one kind or another). As Daniel, a visionary, a destroyer, a mutilator (sex is another kind of charge he defuses and debases) now comes to judgment. But it is the early scenes through the eyes of the children which come across most strongly: their witness of the arrest and betrayal of the incriminating dentist Mindish; the surveillance and the search of their house before their parents are taken away -- one by one; their mobile disposition from an unloving aunt's house to a Shelter to a home; and of course the last visits to the Death House. They are indeed ""Franny and Zooey in the Cold War"" and are never graced with an easier or earlier release from the whole loaded, ugly story. One questions some of it even in this fictional form but one accepts it for what it is -- a ravaging, riveting experience which will be read all through the long nights to come.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1971
ISBN: 0679643370
Publisher: Random House