The March by E L Doctorow - review by John Dugdale

John Dugdale

The First American Liberator

The March

By

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Evidence continues to accumulate that America’s senior novelists have got their hands on some literary equivalent of Viagra. It’s not just that Messrs Wolfe (b 1931), Updike (b 1932), Roth (b 1933), McCarthy (b 1933) and the late Saul Bellow (b 1915) remain or remained productive as septuagenarians; but also that instead of producing the kind of fiction – either pared-down and wintry, or self-parodically rarefied or woolly – normally associated with a late phase, they create exacting structures and write vigorous, surging prose. Their role models are the raging later Yeats, source of the titles of recent works by Roth and McCarthy, and T S Eliot, who wrote that old men ought to be explorers.

The phenomenon is illustrated again by this splendid novel by E L Doctorow (b 1931), which follows the march to the sea through Georgia of General Sherman’s Union army after the fall of Atlanta; and then his northward thrust from Savannah through the Carolinas, concluding with the Confederate surrender and

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