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Welcome to Hard Times Paperback – July 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

E. L. Doctorow’s works of fiction include Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, Billy Bathgate, The Waterworks, City of God, The March, Homer & Langley, and Andrew’s Brain. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, honoring a writer’s lifetime achievement in fiction, and in 2012 he won the PEN/ Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to an author whose “scale of achievement over a sustained career places him in the highest rank of American literature.” In 2013 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction. In 2014 he was honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (July 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452275717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452275713
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,905,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

E. L. Doctorow's works of fiction include Homer & Langley, The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World's Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. In 2009 he was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize honoring a writer's lifetime achievement in fiction, and in 2012 he won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to an author whose "scale of achievement over a sustained career [places] him . . . in the highest rank of American literature." In 2013 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is Doctorow's sleeper novel. It hasn't received much critical attention in comparison to his other works, but this one is a real gem. It provides us with a picture of what kind of hardscrabble existence the western settlers actually endured, as opposed to the sanitized images Hollywood has provided us. The only other author I've seen perform this so effectively is Harte Crane. The characters are stereotypes (the bullying villain - the noble prostitute - the unwilling hero, etc) but Doctorow invests the plot with enough quirky twists and injects enough black humor to keep the reader from noticing how one-dimensional the characters are. And they do undergo transformations, which keeps them from remaining so one-dimensional. If you are a Doctorow fan or are just looking for a diverting, yet intelligent read, give this one a try.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Cairene on August 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
For the better part of the novel he has no name, he is simply referred to as the Bad Man from Bodie. And in Welcome To Hard Times harrowing first few pages he single handedly rapes, vandalises and burns an entire town. He never says a word. He is, as one character descibes him "a force of nature, like the weather", an inexplicable destructive force that strikes at random.
Those who survive the Bad Man's wrath choose to leave, to seek better fortune elsewhere. Only the town's unofficial mayor Blue, a local Indian healer, a half burnt prostitute and a murdered carpenter's son stay behind. Blue is the narrator, and it is not some angry venomous determination to fight back that makes him stay to found a new town, but a defeatest acceptance of their fortune. If life has to go on, then this burned down town is as good a place as any.
Doctrow's debut novel is a grim and dirty slice of bleak frontier life. A novel that sets out to destroy the myths of heroism in the old west. In Welcome To Hard Times heroism results in death and cowardice merely delays it. The only kind of accomplishment to be proud of is survival. As Blue narrates how the new town of Hard Times comes into being, how the Russian's bordello has brought prosperity and how the money is ever flowing, his tone is unmistakably regretful. The tragic outcome is never in any doubt, we are left to ponder who will be left behind next time a force of nature strikes.
Like Robert Altman's film McCabe & Mrs.Miller, this is a novel with no illusions about the period. Relishing the grim pictorals of Buzzards feeding on the dead, fire burning over ice, it marches to its inevitable end. The downfall is never in question, only one thing can make these character's life worse. Hope.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By AusE VINE VOICE on November 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
We each have our conceptions of how the west was in that period when America was coming into itself, and the American or newly minted immigrant, with all his ideals and aspirations, was exploring hitherto unconquered frontiers in search of wealth and opportunity. This is a somber work, and for that reason, refreshing and real.

Blue is a leader of sorts, also kind of a coward, but human in all respects. He rises and falls with the town he exists in. He ekes out a position of modest respect, while also inciting a level of revilement in those with whom he desires closeness. He is in a way a tragic character, but fully human. The Bad Man of Bodie is the dark force of evil in the story, hovering around ready to destroy the meager gains that Blue and his fellow settlers find. One senses Blue's disappointment and self-loathing in his recounting of the rise and fall of the inconsequential town and a rueful sense of what could have been, personally and socially.

This was a very entertaining read; thoughtful, subtle and as satisfying as a cold beer on a hot day.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stuart W. Mirsky on October 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Actually I saw the movie many years back and, remembering that and recently reading another Doctorow book, I decided to pick this one up when I noticed it in a store. The tale of a ramshackle little western town on the edge of nowhere in the Dakota territory, deriving its lifeblood from a nearby mine, WELCOME TO HARD TIMES grabs us from the beginning with its brutal portrayal of the town's destruction at the hands of a monster of a man who is to remain nameless for much of the tale, a natural force more than a fellow human being. The Bad Man from Bodie savagely rapes and callously kills those in his path including the town whores, the barkeep, the carpenter, the undertaker, the hangers-on, leaving only a few scattered survivors in his wake, after burning the town around them to the ground. In the shadow of his departure, with little hope and much desperation, the handful of survivors rebuild, mainly for want of anything else to do. And the town, after a rigorous winter, prospers. But the mood throughout is ominous and the memory of the Man fron Bodie never far below the surface of the broken people he leaves behind. Doctorow writes with subtlety and irony and his telling is as tight as it gets. Yet I found the ending, deliberately muddled, I suppose, to mimic the sense of collapse, rather a letdown after the crisp narrative that comes before. All breaks down, in the end, in a sudden revelation about the sustaining source of the town's hopes and the Bad Man from Bodie returns without notice, just abruptly appearing in the maelstrom of collapse. This time is a little different from the first in the town's response to the Bad Man, or at least in how the self-proclaimed town mayor and narrator responds. But the results are no less redolent of life's despair and futility.Read more ›
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