- E.L. Doctorow, who has died, wrote books, like his most famous, "Ragtime," that arrestingly mingled real characters with fictional ones
- Jay Parini: He demonstrated in book after book that the past is very much alive, but not easily accessed. History is never really "over"
Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. His newest book is "Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal," which comes out in October. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN)When I began teaching in 1975, everyone was reading "Ragtime," by E.L. Doctorow. That luminous novel had just appeared, to great acclaim, and I read it again and again, marveling at its complex structure, its jazzy prose, the way the plot seems at once to exploit and mock the conventions of historical fiction.