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World's Fair
by E. L. Doctorow
Publisher: Plume Books 1996
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New York is the setting and a central character in this wonderfully moving and evocative novel of a boy growing up and a family surviving in the 1930s. Told in the voices of its young protoganist, his mother, and his older brother, the story unfolds against a back-ground of the grim economic realities of the Great Depression and the indomitable hopes for the future as embodied in the wondrous exhibits of New York's World's Fair. The Altschulers, living in successively smaller apartments in the Bronx, are prey to both. As the raffish father's Times Square music store slides toward failure, the warring parents live in uneasy truce for the sake of their children and the older brother drifts from promising adolescence toward impecunious young manhood. Meanwhile, the youngest son listens to Tom Mix on the radio, watches the German zeppelin HINDENBURG floating over Manhattan, cheers the Giants at the Polo Grounds and worships DiMaggio in center field at Yankee Stadium, hears grownups talking about Hitler and Roosevelt, tastes first love and other thrilling precursors of adult experience, and sees the dreamworld of the WORLD'S FAIR as the shimmering shape of things to come. This then is the way life was and the way love and pain will always be--in a superbly clear-eyed novel that may make a reader's eyes mist over with the magic of the past come to life again.

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