Books: The Artist as a Very Young Critic: WORLD'S FAIR

WORLD'S FAIR by E.L. Doctorow; Random House; 288 pages; $17.95

Like generations of authors before him, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow blends fact and fancy and calls the results novels. His tragedy of political passion, The Book of Daniel, was based conspicuously on the Rosenberg atom-spy case. Although he changed names and broadened perspectives, it was impossible to turn a page without thinking about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on their way to the electric chair. The real had again overpowered the imagined.

Ragtime solved this problem in high style. Its storybook setting in America before World War I gave Doctorow enough distance to rewrite history. Nobody complained when Sigmund Freud visited Coney Island,...

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