The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow

Be still my heart. I’ve just started reading the first of a group of books I plan to read for inspiration. Not because they have information that I need, but because they cover the time and place I’m writing about in a way that I hope will help me. The danger is that they are so well-written they might crush my tender-writer feelings.

First up, The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow. Holy mother of God could this man write. I would be crushed, by the way, if I wasn’t enjoying it so much. And it’s doing exactly what I hoped, it’s giving me ideas. After this it’s on to The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, and I’m thinking I might also need to read The House of Mirth.

If you have favorite novels about 19th century New York City I’d love suggestions for more to read! Thank you in advance!

Clouds across the street from my apartment. I wanted UFOs to start pouring out of them, like they do in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

5 thoughts on “The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow

  1. Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist”? Although I bet that’s already on your list.

  2. And if you do Edith Wharton, you’ll need to go to Mills Mansion in Strausburg in Dutchess County. I’m told that the mansion and the Mills family was inspiration for the high society swells in “The House of Mirth”. The house is now part of a state park.

  3. I confess I have never read Doctorow. I know! So I just ordered up “Ragtime” from the library. I am number 12 in line. I love to read what other people say is well-written. I don’t think it can crush your writer feelings – I believe it could only inspire them.

    My thesis now consists of 33 pages – about one third done (I just emailed the first third to my supervisor.) Alas, while I wanted it to be so well written it would make the defence committee weep in a good way, metaethics as a subject just does not lend itself to that. But I have had a couple of what are to me original thoughts and am pleased with that, so far. I didn’t know writing a thesis would be such a creative effort, even if the product doesn’t look very creative.

  4. Now I want you to make them CRY TOO. But congratulations on coming up with original thoughts. That will make them cry. WITH ENVY.

    I don’t think I’ve read Doctorow either!! I honestly think I tried Ragtime many years ago and didn’t get into it! Maybe it was something else of his though.

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