Books: The Music of Time

RAGTIME by E.L. DOCTOROW 271 pages. Random House. $8.95.

"Divided between power and the dream" is the way F. Scott Fitzgerald saw it in his luminous projection of lost innocence, The Great Gatsby. In Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow plays a dazzling variation on that theme in a slightly earlier era: the final days of America's privileged childhood.

His novel is carefully framed between 1902 and 1917, surrounding the robust, unambiguous patriotism of Teddy Roosevelt and the complex, brooding morality of Woodrow Wilson. It was Winslow Homer time, when, as Doctorow writes, "a certain light was...

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