An eclectic and engaging selection of recent pieces, mostly about other writers, from the award-winning novelist (The March, 2005, etc.).
Doctorow’s playful title (it alludes to those who create, not those who believe we were created) masks a serious purpose—to examine the mystery and the magic of human creation. Although he focuses principally on novelists and playwrights, he includes a very strong piece about Einstein, whose creativity, Doctorow argues, though astonishing, was nonetheless similar to the acts of novelists and artists and creative thinkers of all sorts. These essays form an impressive collection, in one sense, because they are so different from one another. They all deal with “creationists,” but they originally appeared as speeches, forewords or afterwords to other books, remarks at symposia, essays in literary or political journals. As a result, although each bears Doctorow’s signature intelligence and lyricism, each has a singularity, as well; these are not cookie-cutter pieces lifted from the same piece of rolled dough. Doctorow has no peer in his powerful use of imagery. In his wonderful piece on Melville, he offers the picture of Moby-Dick swallowing not just the Pequod but the entire English language. He notes that Hemingway found the “most romantic face” of “our great operative myth of rugged individualism.” He blasts Margaret Thatcher and George Bush; he writes hymns to Arthur Miller and John Dos Passos and Harpo Marx. The range of these pieces reveals Doctorow’s wide reading and capacious mind: He takes on the book of Genesis, plus Malraux, Poe (whose poetry Doctorow disdains), Twain, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Kafka, W.G. Sebald and others. Also present are some keen-edged political and social commentary. “Why write when you could be shooting someone?” he asks at the outset. And his final piece (about thermonuclear bombs) notes that World War II brought an end to the quaint distinction between combatants and noncombatants. The bomb is an equal-opportunity destroyer.
A first-rate collection from a first-rate writer.