Doctorow and Poe: A tale of two Edgars, and the predestination of names
The mysterious initials in E.L. Doctorow’s name—what do they stand for? From the obituary in the New York Times, by Bruce Weber, I never did learn the significance of the L., for “Lawrence.” But the E., for “Edgar,” turns out to signify one of Doctorow’s father’s favorite writers, who was Edgar Allan Poe. Evidently E.L. Doctorow turned an ironic eye on this circumstance. On the matter of his father’s literary taste, Doctorow said, as quoted in the Times: “Actually, he liked a lot of bad writers, but Poe was our greatest bad writer, so I take some consolation from that.” I hope Doctorow did not entirely believe this evaluation. It may be true that Poe was, in Doctorow’s words, “a drug-addicted, alcoholic delusional paranoid with strong necrophiliac tendencies.” Still, he expressed a lunatic intensity of New York. And who has better captured certain crazy intensities of New York than Edgar Doctorow?