The Waterworks


The Waterworks Fiction
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Product Description

An astounding novel of post-Civil War New York City. Like a panoramic negative print, reversed in its lights and shadows, this is beloved Gotham at the heart of a tale that becomes increasingly ominous yet electrifyingly readable as a moral hologram on a direct line from Doctorow's historical imagination. 253p.

Editorial Reviews

~ Doctorow (Billy Bathgate, 1989, etc.) does his customary outstanding job in creating a specific voice, era, and place. This time around the narrator is a newspaper editor in the self-consciously modern New York City of 1871. He pays little attention to himself, however, choosing instead to focus on Martin Pemberton, a freelance employee. Although Pemberton's father--a former slave trader who made big money during the Civil War by selling poor-quality equipment and clothing to the Union army--has died and been buried, Pemberton is consumed with a vision. He is certain that he has spotted his father in a carriage full of old, withered men driving up Broadway. After speaking of this vision to a pastor, he disappears, and our narrator plays the intrepid reporter and tracks him down. This chase, which has ghost-story overtones, is set against a murky New York where Boss Tweed is falling from power, and there are clear allegorical connections between Pemberton's story and the political arena. Some of the best prose here consists of the narrator's reflections on his era. ``As a people we practiced excess. Excess in everything--pleasure, gaudy display, endless toil, and death. Vagrant children slept in the alleys. Ragpicking was a profession.'' As the story progresses and he becomes more involved, an excess of ellipses crops up: ``Possibly it can't be rationalized...but there is some instinct that prefers...unintruded-upon meaning.'' Although these are sometimes irksome, they succeed in conveying the downward spiral into obsession that is--and apparently always has been--so prevalent in New York. While fully capturing the historical city, Doctorow's tale clearly, but unobtrusively, comments on contemporary New York as well. A master plies his trade. (Book-of-the-Month feature selection; author tour) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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