Loon Lake by E. L. Doctorow

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"Loon Lake" is an important American novel in it's portrayal of the Great Depression of 30's ; a passionate, young New Jersey man leaves home to find his fortune. What he finds, on a cold and lonely night in the Adirondack Mountains, is a vision of life so different from his own that it changes his destiny, leading him from the side of a railroad track to a magical place called "Loon Lake". It is a haunting story of dreams and desires.

The novel traces the journeys of a young man during the Great Depression. He leaves Paterson, New Jersey, to seek his fortune and finds himself entrapped in the world of Loon Lake, where he confronts the tyranny of wealth and power. The book is thus a vehicle for Doctorow's indictments of American capitalism.

Author Overview
The novel was written in 1980 by a contemporaneous author named E. L. Doctorow. E. L. Doctorow is generally considered to be among the most talented, ambitious, and admired novelists of the second half of the twentieth century. Doctorow was born in 1931 and fantasized about the 1930's crime life as a child. He is an American novelist, short story writer, editor, essayist, as well as dramatist. Highly-regarded and controversial; Doctorow's work is characterized by serious philosophical probing, a subtle and diverse prose style and placement of historical figures in unusual, sometimes bizarre situations and settings. Doctorow occupies a central position in the history of American literature. His novels stretch the limits of the literary genres.

His works include Big as Life, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, World's Fair, Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella, a play entitled Drinks Before Dinner and of course "Loon Lake" which portrays American life during the Great Depression. In "Loon Lake" (1980), Doctorow continued to experiment with prose style, as he explored yet another period in American history, the Depression. The novel moves not linearly, but in concentric circles, to set American dream in the context of American nightmare.

Loon Lake:
"Loon Lake" presents a bewildering collection of different techniques: traditional narratives, stream of consciousness and poetry. It is also a novel which continually reminds the reader of others. Throughout the novel, many facets of American society are explored, ranging from the plight of the poor to the idiosyncrasies of the rich. A persistent theme in this novel is the existence of the American dream. Doctorow seems to be fascinated by upward social mobility, especially when it involves the impoverished and underprivileged. Yet he also points out that with the success or attempted success of the American dream, one must make sacrifices compromising morality, physical well-being, conscience, or identity. The overall benefits of achieving prosperity, equality, or acceptance seem to always outweigh the adverse affects that result from chasing the enduring dream.

Loon Lake, a retreat for millionaire industrialist F.W. Bennett in the 1920s, is the central setting of the novel. Young hobo, Joe from New Jersey has set off during the worst of the depression to walk the railroad tracks and seek a better life. He hears a train coming, so he steps off and is passed by a number of luxurious private railroad cars, one of which contains a beautiful, naked woman standing in front of a mirror, holding up a dress to her body. The young man elects to follow this train and winds up at Loon Lake, the vast private estate of one of the wealthiest men in the east. The young man spends some time on this estate amid the gathering of peculiar characters there; the magnet's aviatrix wife, an obese writer and would-be political assassin and finally decides to head west. He steals a car from the billionaire who owns "Loon Lake" and agrees to give a ride to a gangster's girlfriend, the woman he'd seen that night, who is trying to evade her violent criminal lover. The pair head to Indiana and settle in a factory town,...
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