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E.L. Doctorow

On New York As A Place for Rapid Development:
The upper classes, the nouveau riche, moved further and further north to get away from the infusion of immigrants from various parts of Europe -- Germany and Ireland and later, Eastern Europe, Italy -- and so the building went apace and, as I think I've described somewhere, a mansion would appear in a field, and the next day there would be a street going past with a horse and carriage on the street. A sense of the pace of life, that was very predictive of what we think of as the 20th or indeed the 21st century, was already established in New York in the mid-19th century. It was always a high-tech city. It was always the place where the first technological and engineering marvels were established.

On The Home For His Imagination:
To me, New York is life and that's where it happens, that's where it occurs. Every writer has basically two homes, the place he lives physically and the home for his imagination. Jack London was from California but he didn't really find the home for his imagination until he went up to the Yukon. I'm fortunate enough in having both homes in the same place.

On Multiplicity:
If you imagine an ordinary moment at an intersection in New York City, a street light -- some people are stopped and others are in motion, some cars are stopped and others are in motion -- if you were to put that in film terms, in a freeze frame, and hold everything for a second, you would realize that there's a universe there of totally disparate intentions. Everybody going about his or her business in the silence of their own minds with everybody else, and the street, and the time of day, and the architecture, and the quality of light, and the nature of the weather as a kind of background or field for the individual consciousness. When you think about that, that's what happens in the city, in that somehow the city can embrace and accept and accommodate all that disparate intention at one and the same time. Not only in that corner, but in thousands of corners. It's really an astonishing thing.

On Why He Loves The City:
What do I love about it? That it is a phenomenon, in my eyes, a source of wonder. Within the space of a half-hour, hours walk, you're going through many different cities. The character of neighborhoods changing radically from one block to another is astonishing to me. That everyone who lives here has a different idea of the city because always, in the internal navigation we make, the city, the center of the city is our home, our apartment, our small place, and the rest of the city radiates from that center, from that store downstairs where you buy your newspaper or milk, and that's always different for everybody.

On New York's Attraction For Writers:
New York has always attracted the loners. And it wasn't only Poe, Melville also walked the streets down here. Melville's classic story BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER -- about a clerk down at Wall Street who rejects everything and refuses to function -- was another expression of the perception of the kind of writer who would be attracted to New York in the first place. The whole idea about us all is we are a community but we won't admit it. We thrive best when we think of ourselves adrift in a sea of strangers.

E.L. Doctorow
Born in the Bronx in 1931, Doctorow is known for his mix of historical figures and fiction in his novels THE BOOK OF DANIEL (1971, Random House) (nominated for the National Book Award), BILLY BATHGATE (1989, Random House) and RAGTIME (NAL Dutton, 1996), which became a Broadway musical in 1998. After serving in the military from 1953 to 1955 and working as a reader for CBS Television, Doctorow began his career in publishing. As editor-in-chief at Dial Press, a position he held until 1969, he worked with such writers as Norman Mailer and James Baldwin. He also taught at Sarah Lawrence College and still teaches at New York University.