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Here’s what E.L. Doctorow said at the National Book Festival last year

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Doctorow’s “Ragtime,” which won the 1975 National Book Critics Circle Award, enlivened American fiction by showing just what a new kind of historical fiction could do. Thirty years later, he won the NBCC award again for “The March,” his novel about Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War.

So it seemed entirely appropriate for the Library of Congress to honor Doctorow last year with the Prize for American Fiction. And on this sad day, the library’s timing seems especially prescient. It was to be the last major award of Doctorow’s much lauded career as a writer, editor and teacher.

When he came to the National Book Festival last August to accept the award, Doctorow was interviewed by former Book World editor Marie Arana. You can hear him here, talking about the inspiration he drew from his parents, his teachers and his namesake, Edgar Allan Poe.

“I start with an image or even a phrase of music or a phrase of language that I find very evocative,” he says. “And so, I start writing to find out why I’ve had that feeling. And so, basically I end up writing to find out what I’m writing. It’s not an entirely rational way to live, but that’s the way these books happen.”

Here is the video, courtesy of the Library of Congress.