E. L. Doctorow | Critical Review by Gwendolyn Brooks

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of E. L. Doctorow.
This section contains 393 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Gwendolyn Brooks

SOURCE: "The Menace," in New York Herald Tribune Book Week, July 10, 1966, p. 17.

In the following review, Brooks provides a sketch of the plot, characters and ideas in Big as Life.

One day a gigantic, nude man and woman arrive in New York. They lean against the horizon. They are beautiful, burnished, odorous, and they have a powerful effect on the town, which proceeds to tumble over itself, to huddle, to pray. The town cries NO.

What can be done? Consultation, defense command, intellectual research, jetliner, helicopter, and practical philosophy are brought to bear. The President, the Cabinet, and the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are interested, make suggestions.

Through the screen of hysteria we see most plainly Wallace Creighton, a professor of history at Columbia University, jazz bass king Red Bloom and Red Bloom's love, Sugarbush. These people inch their way through the violence, death, blanks, and quavers of their predicament and emerge, shredded, with new creeds. Thoughtful Creighton is at first convinced that the new people are unendurable, that they are overwhelmingly repulsive and subtly dangerous; for there is the possibility of mysterious and awful infection, and even though it is discovered that an hour of "normal" time is a month or two of giant time, there is the certainty that eventually the nameless ones will become aware of their small oppressors and will simply stamp them out. But after considerable mullings and veerings, Creighton decides that the invaders have become actually necessary, that they are stimulating the beginning of a "real history," that the net result may be "nice" for posterity, may improve the prospects of that little son Red and Sugarbush are expecting. To tamper with them might "touch some nerve, some key connection." Red, although still awed after a year of the mighty presences, decides that it will be all right if the big beauties remain. He can no longer imagine their non-existence. "I think if you take them away they'll still be there."

As for Sugarbush—her creed is comprised of Red, "love" with Red, housework, the coming baby, and making-the-best-of-things. In Essential Woman we meet the solving heart of things, the blood of this book. Making-the-best-of-things is E. L. Doctorow's recommendation. It is a good recommendation, so we water down our regret that his characters and style are servants to his message.

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This section contains 393 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Gwendolyn Brooks
Literature Criticism Series
Critical Review by Gwendolyn Brooks from Literature Criticism Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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