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World's Fair: A Novel Paperback – July 10, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297820X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812978209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA The 1930s was a turbulent time for America: the Great Depression, left-wing politics and the growing concern over the rise of Hitler in Europe. As seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Edgar Altshuler, these events provide a backdrop for the more intimate story of his own family and how they coped while living in the Bronx. They serve a symbolic purpose as well as a historical one. On his first visit to the fair, Edgar is enthralled by industry's vision of the futuresafe, secure and prosperous cities, speedy and cheap transportation and modern invention to make life easier. On his second visit, he sees that the exhibits are constructed of gypsum whose paint is peeling and that the displays are really toys. Reality has altered Edgar's perceptionshe is growing up. Edgar's chapters are randomly interspersed with his mother Rose's recollections and a few by his older brother Donald to give a seemingly simplistic view of life that is actually a rich narrative of history, political and personal values and points for discussion. A remarkable book for perceptive readers. Diana Hirsch, PGCMLS, Md.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Something close to magic." The Los Angeles Times

The astonishing novel of a young boy's life in the New York City of the 1930s, a stunning recreation of the sights, sounds, aromas and emotions of a time when the streets were safe, families stuck together through thick and thin, and all the promises of a generation culminate in a single great World's Fair . . .

From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

E. L. Doctorow's novels include The March, City of God, The Waterworks, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, Lives of the Poets, World's Fair, and Billy Bathgate. His work has been published in thirty-two languages. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. E. L. Doctorow lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

This book was very hard to put down once I stared to read it.
Beautifully written, if occasionally over-written, it is very moving and memorable.
An interesting story of life in New York seen through the eyes of a young child.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Written ten years after Ragtime, Doctorow's World's Fair seems to be a far simpler book, primarily because it is all told from a single point of view, that adult Edgar looking back at his childhood and its significance. Doctorow, however, creates a complex picture of what it meant to be Jewish and growing up in the Bronx during the 1930's, a time when Americans struggled against the hardships of the Great Depression. Much as he does in Ragtime, Doctorow sets up the beginning - the birth of Edgar - as a time of innocence and imagined perfection that eventually gets marred by reality, with the safety of childhood challenged as much by family dynamics as current events.

As with all Doctorow's later books, there is a strong element of nostalgia, a sense that the author is writing about better, more defining times. Edgar's progression through childhood and his sharp observations of all that unfolds around him comprise the plot. His mother, caught in a squabble of a marriage but dedicated to her family all the same, gives Edgar and his older brother Donald stability where their unreliable but dashing father cannot. As the 1939 World's Fair approaches, Edgar places his hopes on winning an essay contest about the All-American Boy to get free tickets, but, of course, events don't transpire exactly as Edgar expects.

The novel is meant to be taken as autobiographical (the "E" in E.L. Doctorow stands for "Edgar.') This carefully constructed fiction, with its concrete details and straightforward style, melds invention with truth, giving this novel an intimate, honest tone. The method of adopting historical details - events, personalities, mass psychology - gives the character context within the times and lends the sense of a greater story to what is essentially a coming-of-age novel.

Although World's Fair is not my favorite Doctorow novel, it remains a fine addition to any reading list.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on May 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
E.L. Doctorow is probably New York's greatest literary nostalgia artist. While "Ragtime" recalls the city's colorful population explosion of immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century and "Billy Bathgate" is a boy's Depression-era underworld fantasy, "World's Fair" evokes what it might have been like to grow up in the Bronx in the 1930's. The narrator, Doctorow's voice and presumed alter ego, is a Jewish boy named Edgar Altschuler who is about nine by the time the book ends, so it remains in a state of pre-pubescent innocence without entering into the turbulent years of adolescent awakening.
Edgar is an extremely observant child who is fascinated by the intricacies of the most mundane things and events. Normal kid routines like school, ball games, movies, comic books, and radio programs are described in loving detail as though he were eager to explain to his jaded adult readers what's so special about being a kid. Similarly, tragedies like the death of his grandmother, witnessing a woman getting hit by a car, and meeting terminally ill children in the hospital take on perceptively morbid new dimensions through Edgar's words.
The members of Edgar's immediate family are so realistic they seem like sepia-tinted photographs come to life. His father Dave co-owns a music store and, far from being the moral compass a father's role is traditionally given, is somewhat irresponsible and irreverent, a social activist about thirty years ahead of his time. Edgar's mother Rose is a bundle of anxiety, worrisome and contentious from living in a house full of men. His older brother, Donald, and uncle Willy are both musically inclined, one a failed bandleader, the other destined to be a failed bandleader.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
We expect that Doctorow will use some piece of New York City's past as the setting for each of his novels but we also expect that he will give us a story with drama, tragedy or some wry take on the human comedy. In World's Fair he only gives us the view of time past. There is precious little story in this book. It deals with a young boy and his family during the 1930's and concerns itself mostly with ordinary life and the ups and downs of family relations. The story is mostly told by the younger son (who is nine at book's end) as he recounts his earliest memories, preoccupations, dreams, friends, illnesses and enthusiasms, but other characters (his mother, older brother and aunt) all have chapters in which they 'remember' the story from their own point of view. Yet if the plot is thin, the sense of reality generated by the writing is substantial. Doctorow uses the ordinary life of his characters to reflect and represent the broader story of the Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany, the extreme political divisions of the time, the fear of impending war and the great hope in a bright and shiney future free of the dark menace of poverty and repression.
This book kept me focused from the first few sentences. It doesn't demand a lot from the reader but it delivers a great deal. I suspect that there is a great deal of Doctorow himself in his main character. He was born in 1931, so would have been about the right age to experience the music, radio shows, games and other experiences that make up his protagonist's world. He certainly feels strongly about these simple byegone experiences and manages to convey that to the reader. This is a very satisfying glimpse into the life of ordinary but interesting people and I highly recommend it.
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