Read Welcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow Online


1960 copyright. Random House, New York., 212 pages. 1 lb. (9 x 6 x .6 inches Paperback) . Title: Welcome to Hard Times by E. L. Doctorow. Literature & Fiction\Drama-Author's Debut Novel set in the Dakota Territory of the American Frontier. ISBN#0394731077...

Title : Welcome to Hard Times
Author :
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ISBN : 9780394731070
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 212 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Welcome to Hard Times Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-04-13 00:41

    “One day you stepped in snow, the next in mud, water soaked in your boots and froze them at night, it was the next worst thing to pure blizzardry, it was weather that wouldn't let you settle.” I read several Doctorows back in the late 1980s and never really clicked with him. His writing was fine; it just didn't blow my skirt up. For years though I have thought about picking up a copy of his first book Welcome to Hard Times. I usually like first books and I'm always intrigued with westerns that have been written by people that usually don't write westerns. E. L. Doctorow Welcome to Hard Times starts off with a bang. "The Man from Bodie drank down a half bottle of the Silver Sun's best; that cleared the dust from his throat and then when Florence, who was a redhead, moved along the bar to him, he turned and grinned down at her. I guess Florence had never seen a man so big. Before she could say a word, he reached out and stuck his hand in the collar of her dress and ripped it down to her waist so that her breasts bounded out bare under the yellow light. We all scraped our chairs and stood up--none of us had ever looked at Florence that way before, for all she was. The saloon was full because we watched the man coming for a long time before he pulled in, but there was no sound now."The movie was released in 1967 starring Henry Fonda.Edmund Burke once said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". The men of Hard Times each reluctant to react, worried more about their personal safety than the security of the whole community failed to act. One man goes into the saloon with a piece of board intent on freeing Florence from the Man from Bodie. He staggers back out of the saloon, his head shattered and dies in the street. If other men had summoned the courage to go into that saloon with the one brave soul certainly things would have been different. I was reminded of one of my favorite movies High Noon. Hard Times was badly in need of a Gary Cooper character, but unfortunately the closest they had was a man named Blue. Blue was the pseudo mayor of Hard Times. He kept ledgers that tracked all the property and names of the individuals of the town. He settled squabbles. He was the only man who possibly could have rallied the men of the town and thrown the Man from Bodie from their midst. His highly developed sense of self preservation kept him from doing what had to be done. Not every town has a Will Kane (Gary Cooper in High Noon). The town burned. Women were raped. People were murdered while others huddled in uncertain safety unwilling to lend a hand to those in direct need of assistance. The Man from Bodie leaves in the swirling smoke of his own destruction. Blue left with a handful of survivors is determined to rebuild the town. Blue digs down and builds a dugout using sod for walls. I have pictures of the sod homes that my ancestors made when they first came to Kansas. There was no wood just prairie and sod was the only building material available. The Dakota territory where Hard Times is located proved as bereft of lumber as the flat lands of Kansas. Blue recruits people to town, a tent city grows up then expands into real buildings as lumber is hauled up from the railroad. He is intent on rebuilding the town for reasons beyond his own understanding. They hire a sheriff. Things are going well until the mine that provided most of the revenue for the town plays out. Quickly on the heels of that disaster The Man From Bodie shows up again. He picks up right where he left off. The sheriff attempts to intervene and is shot and killed by The Man From Bodie. This time due to the economic uncertainly the out of work miners lend a helping hand to dismantling the town. Blue is more proactive, even comes up with a plan that takes down The Man From Brodie, but can do nothing to save his town from the rampaging miners. There are many subplots that explores human behavior that I haven't mentioned. This book is about average people who fail to organize and stand as one against the embodiment of evil (The Man From Bodie) and never recover from the devastating results of their failure to act.

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-04-15 20:10

    "I told Molly we'd be ready for the bad man, but we can never be ready. Nothing is ever buried, the earth rolls in it's tracks, it never goes anywhere, it never changes, only the hope changes like morning and night, only the expectations rise and set. Why does there have to be promise before destruction?"The Bad Man from Bodie is the villain in this book, but in reality he is just an embodiment for the evil that lies in men's hearts, for human nature gone terribly wrong. And the good people either ran in fear or just sat by and did nothing. Does that sound familiar? This book made my blood run cold.This book was first published in 1960, and was E. L. Doctorow's first novel. There is no way he could have intended it as a warning about the things happening in our present day world, so maybe it's just me choosing to interpret it that way.An incredible book any way you choose to look at it. You can read it as a western novel about the settling of a town, or as an allegory on the battle between good and evil. The last sentence blew me away.

  • LeAnne
    2019-04-20 21:54

    Maybe like the miners who fed this old western town's economy, I needed to dig deeper. There is surely some profound philosophy in here showing us that there is nothing to fear but fear itself or that we are powerless to prevent evil from desolating the world around us. But I stroll on the sunnier side of the street.For me, this was an entirely plot driven novel, despite the dark message it carried. Joseph Conrad did a better job with Heart of Darkness in conveying that kind of idea. Lonesome Dove, while perhaps a more shallow western story, gave me characters that I felt deeply for.I just didnt feel a dustmote of attachment for any of the characters. It was an ugly strip mine for me that never reached the vein others did. 3.5 rounded ip

  • Laura
    2019-03-26 19:09

    GR friend Diane's quote when first starting this book, "The action starts on page 1 and never lets up." The first chapter reads a little like a comedy but that is short lived beginning with chapter 2. If you like fast-paced and action filled this would be a great book to take on. If you are looking for a happy book, keep in mind the title of this novel. Doctorow lays it all out for the reader to experience. This is a book Donald Ray Pollock revealed has influenced/shaped his work as a writer.

  • Tfitoby
    2019-04-21 00:56

    I wanted a western in a noir style and I got it in spades.Doctorow achieved in 155 pages what others spend 600 attempting; he has written a piece of literature in a popular style as an allegory for human nature whilst at the same time analysing what happened in Europe and specifically Germany in the 1930s, all the while making it an entertaining read. And this was his first novel!Whilst this new title evokes a certain mood before you've even turned a page I think the original title of The Bad Man From Bodie has much greater effect after you reach then end. This Bad Man is the embodiment of all human evil and weakness, and in the face of such evil people have a habit of doing nothing. As far as revisionist westerns go this has to take pride of place in its rejection of the John Wayne ideal. There's a story that Clint Eastwood once wrote to John Wayne suggesting they work together on a western and in response John Wayne let Eastwood know in no uncertain terms that what he was doing to the genre was a disgrace. If that is true I'd hate to think what Wayne would think of the way Doctorow paints his western heroes in that case. These people are all weak, they are all cowards, and the novel is better for it.The cover of my Pan edition calls it terse and bloodthirsty, the narration feels like the darker, more existential brother of Billy Wilders Double Indemnity, Norman Mailer called it 'a superb novel' whilst the New York Times compared it to Heart of Darkness and called it 'taut and dramatic, exciting and successfully symbolic', I cannot believe this book is not more widely read in the 21st century and I implore you all to read it now.

  • Kirk Smith
    2019-04-03 22:58

    Well shoot, parties over and it just had to end. I really enjoyed the simple writing style, it suited the locale and the situation. Dang, reading a good western puts a smile on my face, it has to be kind of quirky like this, I'm not a fan of the true westerns (Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, etc). I think Hard Times compares well with The Sisters Brothers, and The Good Lord Bird as being fun offbeat westerns, the type I'm fond of.

  • Ned
    2019-04-06 02:46

    This was a neat little fable of original sin in the wilderness of territory that was to become South Dakota. Blue, the de facto mayor and conscience of the “town”, meets his nemesis in the form of a human malevolent wrecking crew. The “man” (satan, really) is unleashed on the dry plains and lays to ruin the best efforts of man. This is an origin story of father, mother and child struggle against the mighty force, one with a seething vengeance, one with angry devotion and mixed loved, and the protagonist Blue who holds out hope and gives his all. The years wintering in this bleak landscape, before the town is re-built, is profoundly frightful, yet spring comes and yields its eternal hope for progress. The three know the day of reckoning will come, and it contaminates their relationships, since deep down they know that they are alone and must face their adversary. This memory seethes and unsettles, constantly agitating their minds and eliminating any true peace of mind. The finale, though predictable, shatters all pretense and the chaos of the hordes explodes once the veneer of society is punctured (by the loss of the town’s source of revenue). The town is the world, its people humanity, and the lonely Blue cannot hold the center – forever weakened by his heart’s desire for mankind’s beneficence. Only briefly, at the end, does he taste the sweet yet poisonous fruit of original sin…”and it was thrilling to concentrate my hate” (p. 204)The backdrop will evince Dexter’s “Deadwood”, and the dialogue is true and the colorful characters biblical in the style of McCarthy. This is an entertaining parable where man’s natural tendencies are laid bare and overwhelm the single, heart wrenching (and ultimately feeble) strivings of the one good man whose eyes are always on the buzzards circling in the hot skies above the vast plain stretching out to infinity.Yes, I'll keep reading this author... expecting great things.

  • Tina
    2019-04-23 21:07

    This short first novel by E. L. Doctorow takes place in a Dakota mining town called Hard Times. It is a fit name for a place in the middle of nowhere with harsh weather, hard relationships, bad men and lawlessness. One of the most interesting westerns I have ever read because of its' plot. Hard Times is filled with desperation and hopelessness. Sounds like a cookie-cutter western? It's not, but to say more would give it all away.My rating: 5 stars. This book is classic worthy.

  • Margaret
    2019-03-31 19:52

    kicks cormac mccarthy's ass

  • Judy
    2019-04-23 20:10

    Doctorow's first novel is a literary western. That's right. It was shelved in Westerns at my library. In truth, it is a philosophical though action packed story set in Dakota Territory during the wild, lawless days when the West was being settled.The writing is taut and just about perfect. You can see, hear, almost smell the town of Hard Times and the characters leap to life. The "Bad Man from Bodie" rides into town, rapes the whores, then burns down the entire town.Blue is the default philosophizing mayor. In penance for failing to defend his town from the Bad Man because he was not willing to kill the guy, he attempts to rebuild the town and to create a family by taking in Molly, one of the raped whores, as well as the young son of his best friend who died in the fire. Molly reminded me of Kathy from Steinbeck's East of Eden.But evil has visited the town once and Doctorow creates some serious foreboding and foreshadowing. You know it's coming back. Quite a page-turner for such a philosophical book because the symbolism is embedded in the drama.

  • Craig Childs
    2019-04-17 19:46

    I once believed Larry McMurtry was the first author to write a true anti-Western, a demystification of the American West myth, but it turns out that honor should go to E.L. Doctorow who penned this hard little classic a good twenty-six years before anyone had ever heard of Lonesome Dove. Welcome to Hard Times is the bleak, almost nihilistic tale of Mayor Will Blue, an aging coward living on the western frontier in the Dakota flatlands. Blue watches his friends murdered and his town burned to the ground by an unnamed gunslinger, unwilling to put himself in harm’s way to stop it. Afterwards, he must take in the few remaining survivors and then attempt to rebuild the town from scratch, but Blue always fears the return of the Bad Man from Bodie and wonders if he will have the courage to fight back next time.Like the best Westerns, this story tackles hard questions about man’s ability to survive in harsh conditions, what it means to build and live in community, and the consequences of confronting weakness within oneself. You get the feeling that Blue’s goals are doomed to failure from the outset—how can a sad man like this find love, or success, or even friendship in such a harsh landscape?—but you root for him because he tries so hard and his goals are noble. Doctorow is doing for the Western what Cormac McCarthy did for the crime novel in No Country for Old Men. He strips the genre down to its bones and removes the pretense of even the possibility of happy endings. This is not a world where the weak are redeemed. Instead, as one character says:“Truth is, if the drought don’t get you and the blizzards don’t get you, that’s when some devil with liquor in his soul and a gun in his claw will ride you down and clean you out.”In this time and space, even the concept of civilization can be shifting and illusory. Another great passage said this: “Every time someone puts a little capital into this Territory I’m called in by the Governor and sent on my way…. If a man files a claim that yields, there’s a town. If he finds some grass, there’s a town. Does he dig a well? Another town. Does he stop somewhere to ease his bladder, there’s a town. Over this land a thousand times each year towns spring up and it appears I have to charter them all. But to what purpose? The claim pinches out, the grass dies, the well dries up, and everyone will ride off to form up again somewhere else for me to travel. Nothing fixes in this damned country, people blow around at the whiff of the wind. You can’t bring the law to a bunch of rocks, you can’t settle the coyotes, you can’t make a society out of sand.”Unfortunately, the story falls apart in the third act. Like many authors, Doctorow seemed to be trying too hard to make a point rather than tell a story. He allows his thematic message—that civilization is a just false veneer, that all men are violent and anarchic by nature—to overwhelm and overshadow the natural narrative arc. Predictably, Blue’s dreams for his new city fall apart, and the Bad Man from Bodie returns for a final showdown. The climactic situation devolves into almost satirical scenes of rioting, murder, and unrestrained mayhem that just did not ring true to the characters or the story itself.

  • Shaun
    2019-04-20 21:04

    Coming across as a mixture of Blood Meridian and Mccabe and Mrs. Miller, this revisionist western examines and undermines the myths of the American west while emphasizing the role violence played in carving out civilization. In a strange way, I was also reminded of J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians; the method of narration was quite similar. Mayor Blue's record-keeping is very reminiscent of the Magistrate's journal-keeping. In both cases, there is a town on a frontier fearing the invasion of an outside menace. Whereas in Coetzee's novel the threat of the barbarians is largely manufactured by the Empire, the Man from Bodie is a real menace to the town of Hard Times. This hidden jewel in Doctorow's distinguished career left me wondering why this book isn't more acclaimed. I went in expecting it to be a relatively minor piece in the career of the man who wrote Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, and Billy Bathgate, and instead discovered a work that can stand alongside any work of postwar fiction. It is so far ahead of its time that its looking behind you.

  • Helen
    2019-03-28 01:07

    "Nothing is ever buried, the earth rolls in its tracks, it never goes anywhere, it never changes, only the hope changes like morning and night, only the expectations rise and set. Why does there have to be promise before destruction?"A western noir. An allegorical storytelling of the battle between good and evil with nobody winning. A story of false hope that life will get better. A story of people not able to face the truth. Do we run? Do we bury our heads in the sand? Or do we face the enemy regardless of the outcome? Gripping and dark through and through. The last third of the book felt a little too long and belabored, like a very slow death, but if you can take it, I recommend Welcome to Hard Times.

  • LaViejaPiragua
    2019-04-19 19:51

    BIENVENIDOS AL OESTE DE VERDADLas novelas son los mejores vehículos para trasladarse por el espacio y el tiempo o, en palabras de Baudelaire, para "viajar sin vapor y sin vela". Lo que pasa es que no todas las expediciones son igual de valiosas, sólo algunas son capaces de conducirnos con la máxima eficacia a otras épocas y paisajes. Son esas las que de verdad consiguen sacarnos del sillón de orejas, del vagón del metro o de la cama para hacernos vivir vidas improbables (casi siempre imposibles) a miles de kilómetros y a muchos años o siglos de distancia."Cómo todo acabó y volvió a empezar", la opera prima de Doctorow, es una novela del Oeste, y además un ejemplo perfecto de vehículo espacio-temporal. Todos recordamos las películas sobre los primeros pobladores de las tierras salvajes del Oeste de Estados Unidos, historias de vaqueros, indios, sheriffs, forajidos, caballos, diligencias y tantos otros iconos que forman parte de la moderna mitología de aquel país. Pues bien, en este libro no encontraréis nada de eso, o mejor dicho, lo encontraréis todo, pero de una forma muy diferente a como nos lo han transmitido las películas. Porque en esta novela hay efectivamente vaqueros, un indio, un sheriff, un forajido, caballos, una diligencia, y más iconos todavía, porque también hay un "saloon", una mina e incluso una de esas tienda en las que se vende cualquier cosa. Pero nada es como nos lo han mostrado hasta ahora en el cine. Esos elementos aparecen en la novela, pero desprovistos de todo adorno épico y, por lo tanto, dotados de una enorme verosimilitud."Cómo todo acabó y volvió a empezar" cuenta la historia de un pequeño asentamiento de pioneros, cuyos habitantes no sólo luchan por sobrevivir, sino por convertirse además en un verdadero pueblo de los que figuran en los mapas y forman parte de las rutas de las diligencias; un pueblo que, con el tiempo, pueda llegar a ser una próspera ciudad. La vida allí no resulta fácil, pero el objetivo común de crear una comunidad estable, parece compensarles todos los padecimientos.Además de pintarnos este cuadro colectivo, Doctorow también nos cuenta con enorme maestría las pequeñas historias particulares de algunos de los personajes. Unas vidas más bien miserables y sometidas a innumerables pruebas en las que valores como el coraje, la lealtad o el sentido del deber son constantemente puestos en entredicho. Aunque Doctorow es uno de esos grandes nombres de la novela americana del siglo XX del que se espera cualquier genialidad, no deja de impresionar tanta calidad y madurez en una primera obra.En cuanto el título, el original en inglés, “Welcome to “Hard Times” (“Bienvenido a Tiempos Difíciles”), juega con el nombre del pueblo, “Tiempos difíciles”. En esta edición española se opta inexplicablemente por un título descriptivo que se aleja por completo del original y que, no sólo no lo mejora, sino que resulta mucho menos gráfico e intenso que el primero. La pregunta sería ¿por qué hay que modificar un título a todas luces impecable? Siempre que se hacen estas cosas suele ser por motivos comerciales. A mí no me parece "Cómo todo acabó y volvió a empezar" más comercial que “Bienvenido a Tiempos Difíciles” o “Bienvenido a Hard Times”, si no se quiere usar el juego de palabras. Tampoco el título de la anterior versión en castellano de esta novela (Grijalbo, 1981) respetaba el original. En aquel caso se optó por “El hombre malo de Bodie”. Otro sinsentido.

  • Andy Weston
    2019-04-24 22:51

    Doctorow's story set in the wild Dakota hills is of the American west is not one that tells of heroes and acts of bravery, but rather the reverse. Blue has the de-facto title of Mayor is a small rural town when one day it is shaken by the visit of man intent of evil. With buildings burnt and many of its inhabitants killed, Blue takes on the rebuilding, along with the other survivors, the key characters in the book. "I picture some reader, a gentleman in a stuffed chair with a rug under him and a solid house around him and a whole city of stone streets around the house - a place like New York which Molly talked about one night, with gas lamps on each corner to light ten dark, and polished carriages running behind the horses, and lots of fine manners...Do you think mister, with all that settlement around you that you're freer than me to make your fate? Do you click your tongue at my story?"Blue is a very different character to the leads of other books about the American west at this time, an antihero. Molly is recovering from being badly burnt in the town's destruction, but is free with insults to the Mayor in what he should have done. Jimmy is a 12 year old boy whose father was brutally killed. As they and the other survivors piece together a life, the town has a resurgence as gold miners arrive. But Hard Times is not about to earn a change of name or fortune. This is a hugely powerful story, and first published in 1960, it is easy to see why it has become a classic of recent times. It's start and ending are particularly strong. Doctorow describes his characters so wonderfully well that for the duration of your read of this short book you are caught up with their ordeal.

  • Xio
    2019-04-04 23:06

    "Nothing is ever buried, the earth rolls over in its tracks, it never goes anywhere, it never changes, only the hope changes like morning and night, only the expectations rise and set. Why does there have to be a promise before destruction?"This simple novel, set in the Dakota flats well before statehood, is written simply and directly and somehow contains a few sharp insights and phrases to be found echoing through all of Tragedy. To be sure, these thoughts are not original. There is no originality to the tragic. However, Doctorow has put his American (screenwriter, at the time, though this was not originally a screenplay it was eventually turned into a -bad- film) spin onto the territory. I read it in a matter of hours and though I guess it has an inevitability, felt caught up and this is entirely due to the writing, the gentle way he manages to unfold his take on the persistent (inspiring? maddening? I guess that depends on your philosophy) folly of humans.

  • Cynthia
    2019-04-24 23:58

    I love Westerns and Doctorow, as expected, turns out a great one especially considering this was his first published book. Blue, a hyper responsible, self appointed mayor devotes himself to keeping town records. People naturally turn to him when a mean gunslinger hits town. He fails them, horrible things happen, lots of scared people scatter and desert the town of Hard Times. Blue takes the few remaining people under his wing including the badly burned and terrorized lady of the night and an orphaned boy. He welcomes newcomers and entices them to stay and help him rebuild the town. The problem everyone spends their time waiting for the bad man to return. A black cloud hangs over Hard Times even as it grows again and Blue scribbles about it. If you like Westerns I'd advise against missing this one.

  • Behzad Sadeghi
    2019-04-05 22:40

    I don't know what I feel. This book was too touching to be appealing. It touched me where it hurt. It touched some of my deepest, wildest fears. It was too terrible to be a favorite. Yet it definitely was a powerful novel. It was almost like the devil himself had bestowed his powers upon this novel. Unsettling is the best adjective I can summon for describing it. And it was just too much for a first novel.

  • Pamela
    2019-04-08 18:49

    OK - we read this a book club selection.I have mixed feelings about it - it is well written: I think the choice and use of language is very is - evocative? atmospheric? - the author does a good job of evoking a mood.characters - reasonably well done - it is written from the POV of one of the characters so we only see what he thinks about other people's acts and attitudes and we have no real information about what THEY might think of him, or anything else.That said: I really didn't like it very well. I suppose it is a fair depiction of a certain kind of iconic western story. Personally, I prefer the ones that have least ONE redeeming, admirable (even if flawed) character.I think this is the kind of book you'd like if you enjoyed Hamlet, where the main character dithers through the entire story, does all the wrong things at the wrong times (or the right things at the wrong times) and ends up getting everybody killed in the end, without ever figuring out why his own character made it inevitable.I have never liked Hamlet much. He was too busy being noble, and forgot to be good.

  • Solistas
    2019-04-22 00:10

    Μια πόλη κοντά στα ορυχεία της Ντακότα καταστρέφεται απο έναν βίαιο άντρα (Bad man from Bode) που δεν εκφέρει λέξη παρά μόνο σκοτώνει κ τρομοκρατεί τους κατοίκους της. Ο αφηγητής με το όνομα Blue, που όλοι τον αποκαλούν δήμαρχο, θα αποφασίσει πεισματικά να χτίσει την πόλη απο την αρχή και να την ονομάσει Hard Times.Το ντεμπούτο του Doctorow ειναι ενα αντί-γουέστερν γραμμένο σε μια εποχή που το είδος γνώριζε την εμπορική του κορυφή. Εδώ το American Dream ειναι ακόμα πιο σκληρό αφού ειναι τελείως εφήμερο. Οι δυνατοί χαρακτηρες του βιβλίου, οι σκέψεις του Blue κ το αναπόφευκτο τέλος της πόλης αποτελούν κυρία συστατικά ενός εξαιρετικού βιβλίου που δεν μπορούσα να αφήσω απ´τα χέρια μου. Η σχέση του με την Μολλυ, την ιερόδουλη που βασάνισε ο καταστροφέας της πόλης, ειναι απο τις πιο δυνατές σκηνές του κειμένου“Sometime between that heady evening she relented and that day we danced—there must have been a moment when we reached what perfection was left to our lives. “We’ve both suffered,” she said, but words don’t turn as the earth turns, they only have their season. When was the moment, I don’t know when, with all my remembrances I can’t find it; maybe it was during our dance, or it was some morning as a breeze of air shook the sun’s light; maybe it was one of those nights of hugging when we reached our ripeness and the earth turned past it; maybe we were asleep. Really how life gets on is a secret, you only know your memory, and it makes its own time. The real time leads you along and you never know when it happens, the best that can be is come and gone.”Οπως κ τα κεφάλια με τον σκληρό χειμώνα που βίωσαν οι λίγοι ακόμα κάτοικοι της πόλης. Το παρακάτω απόσπασμα όταν επιτέλους βλέπουν ήλιο:“I stepped outside into that new morning and I couldn’t believe it. The sun filled my eyes with a warmth of hazes, pink, pale green and yellow, and all over the flats white mists were rising like winter being steamed out of the ground. I swore I could feel the earth turning. Everything was new in my sight, I looked around at the short street of buildings—cabin, windmill, saloon, tent and stable—and it seemed like a row of plants just sprung [..] A few minutes later everyone was out of doors, blinking in the sunlight, standing silent in the face of something that was hard to remember.”Μου αρέσει πολύ ο Doctorow αν και είχα χρόνια να πιάσω βιβλιο του. Το Welcome to Hard Times ειναι απολαυστικό αν κ δυσκολεύεσαι στην αρχή με τα αγγλικά αφού όλοι οι υπόλοιποι κάτοικοι της πόλης ειναι ή μετανάστες ή άνθρωποι που δεν ξέρουν να μιλούν και να γράφουν. Η τραγωδία του τέλους, το ζοφερό κλίμα κάθε σελίδας που γράφει ένας άνθρωπος που αδυνατεί να καταλάβει τις επιλογές του κ την αλήθεια που έκρυβαν, οι ατέλειωτες αλληγορίες ειναι όλα συστατικά της λογοτεχνίας που τελειοποίησε αργότερα αυτός ο σπουδαίος γραφιάς. “I am writing this and maybe it will be recovered and read; and I’ll say now how I picture some reader, a gentleman in a stuffed chair with a rug under him and a solid house around him and a whole city of stone streets around the house—a place like New York which Molly talked about one night, with gas lamps on each corner to light the dark, and polished carriages running behind the horses, and lots of fine manners … Do you think, mister, with all that settlement around you that you’re freer than me to make your fate? Do you click your tongue at my story? Well I wish I knew yours. Your father’s doing is in you, like his father’s was in him, and we can never start new, we take on all the burden: the only thing that grows is trouble, the disasters get bigger, that’s all.”

  • Adrian Stumpp
    2019-04-06 01:54

    Newsweek called Doctorow’s first novel, a western, “Terse and powerful,” and indeed it is. Doctorow’s vision of the West is pretty much what you would expect a late twentieth century Jew from New York to come up with: stereotypical, anachronistic, impossibly hoaky. It’s not difficult to visualize the heavy stream of bad spaghetti westerns informing Doctorow’s imagination in the pages of this novel. You can see the gimmicky celluloid yarns as clearly as Doctorow, in his romantic cloud of childhood nostalgia, must have reconjured them. And if I were a Western genre prude, I would write this off immediately as derivative, thin, unimaginative, and poorly researched, as in parts it surely is. But I’m not. I care about stories and Welcome to Hard Times is a fascinating, if at times unconfident, story. Doctorow’s outpost of the Dakota Territory is peopled with cowards and prostitutes the sensibilities of which would never have been found west of the Eastern seaboard, and into their midst rides the Bad Man from Bodie, an outlaw who rapes, murders, and plunders without remorse. No one stands up to this bully of the plains and the populace divides into the men who hate themselves for being cowards and the women who hate the men for being cowards. Eventually, the whores have all been ruined, the buildings have all been burned, the whiskey has all been drank, and half the men have been buried in shallow graves. The Bad Man from Bodie gets bored and leaves, and as the action slows to nearly nothing, the novel takes a turn for the better.Welcome to Hard Times is only superficially a Western. When it tries to be a Western, it gets pretty silly. Underneath, though, the novel is a stirring meditation on cowardice, gender roles, the psychological importance of safety and justice, revenge, and the destructive power of hatred and chronic self-inflicted victimization.After the Bad Man departs, the first-person protagonist, Blue, a late middle-aged shopkeeper, attempts to return to some sense of domestic order by taking the ravaged prostitute Molly and the orphaned adolescent Jimmy under his care. Despite being born no later than the mid-1800s, Blue’s character seems startlingly informed by post-Freudian psychology, the holocaust, the feminist revolution, and the civil rights movement. But Molly hates Blue for his Prufrock-derived cowardice. She cannot forgive him, cannot feel safe with him, and she spends the balance of the novel teaching Jimmy to be brave, strong, capable—someone she can trust, someone who can protect her, someone she can respect. But this occurs to Blue too late and there is nothing he can do for Jimmy when, in the final chapter, the Bad Man from Bodie returns and Blue realizes that Molly has been slowly transforming Jimmy into a cold-blooded killer, into a new generation of Bad Man. Doctorow unravels this slowly and deftly so that the reader doesn’t realize what has happened before Blue does. The result is chilling, authoritative, wise, and convincing. My hands shook as I closed the book.I like this book very much, in spite of its flaws. If ever I lead a first novel workshop, I will make this required reading for two reasons: (1) it is obviously the work of someone who had never written a novel before and who made plenty of mistakes along the way, and (2) it is obviously the work of a gifted storyteller learning the technical devices that would eventually support his enormous talent.

  • Jonathan Briggs
    2019-04-07 21:09

    The Western has traditionally been the genre of manly men. E.L. Doctorow puts a spin on things and gives us the coward's eye view in "Welcome to Hard Times." The Bad Man from Bodie is not very welcome in Hard Times, a flyspeck town in the Dakota Territory. He's so mean, he'd shoot a man before he ever had the chance to fall asleep and start snoring. The terrified townspeople run to their sort-of mayor, Blue, asking him to do something to run the Bad Man out of their town. Blue figures attempting that would be a sure way to get killed, so his advice is to lay low until the Bad Man slakes his thirst for carnage. After the Bad Man rapes all the cattle and stampedes the whores, he burns the town to the ground. The only people who elect to stay in the smoldering ashes are Blue; a vengeful prostitute named Molly, brutalized and scarred by the Bad Man; a boy named Jimmy, orphaned in the same rampage; and John Bear, an Indian who lived on the fringes of the town when it existed and who remains there now that it doesn't. Molly and Jimmy stay with Blue, as if to provide a constant, glaring reminder of his cowardice -- a makeshift family founded on hate.Inevitably, entrepreneurial settlers come across the scorched patch, and Hard Times begins to stir and show signs of life, rebuilding on the two cornerstones of every solid society: whores and whiskey. There's also water, a stage line, and a nearby mine to supply steady customers looking for a release on the weekend. After a bitterly harsh winter that almost kills Jimmy, spring follows (it often does), bringing more growth, more people, more development and even government recognition. The town throws huge parties, complete with banjos and mouth organs, and Blue resumes his sort-of-mayorly duties.As you might expect of a Western that's about running away in the hopes of never having to fight another day, "Welcome to Hard Times" is not very exciting, but it's not altogether uninteresting. Doctorow is more concerned with the roots of community, how it evolves into civilization and how it eventually declines and falls. Some people don't need a Bad Man to usher them toward destruction. "Our end was in our beginning," Blue says. There's nothing wrong with an intellectual Western packing pearl-handled metaphors instead of six-shooters. But me? Call me shallow, but I woulda preferred a couple more gunfights.Incidentally, in the movie version of "Welcome to Hard Times" (which seriously pusses out on the ending), Aldo Ray plays the Bad Man from Bodie. I can't help but wonder whether he was the inspiration for Mongo in "Blazing Saddles." I see a strong resemblance.

  • Steve
    2019-04-15 03:06

    A tragic scenario though philosophically realistic as an allegory on what a community back then got, and any will again, when there's no organized society/community or, as Thomas Paine would put it, with out the necessary evil of government based on the common good.Libertarian anarchism brought to life in frontier times (some time in the 19th century, it seems). And it's also where America is headed if we don't reverse course on the extremist Dominionism and Tea Party based exploitation of the 98 percent by the elites.Genuinely, this seems to be somewhat how life is in failed African states such as Somalia. Survival of the fittest. But the fittest generally don't build their lives around what it takes to build a successful community.An unsuspecting pioneer town with a mayor by default (everybody just thinks Blue's the guy who has it together enough to provide wisdom for building the town). But even though townsfolk expect him to protect them, he chickens out. Enter the Bad Man from Bodie, who literally rapes and pillages and burns the town down, terrorizing those who stuck around.After which, they rebuild, while fearfully anticipating the Bad Man's return someday in the future. And the Bad Man does return.Will they live happily ever after? Well, they didn't get public safety established. They had promise of economic good times, which ended up going up in dust, so to speak.So, what kind of gumption does it take to build a successful community/town/state?So, if you have a friend who likes to read westerns and is trying to figure out whether Libertarian ideals are workable, this might be a good book for him to explore as food for thought.I'm not enough of a reader that I'm ready to give a five star rating to a book that may not have quite as happy of an ending I'd like. But it was still very good and thought provoking.

  • Paul Lorentz
    2019-04-12 19:46

    One of my favorites, this is maybe the fifth or sixth time I've read it, the first since visiting South Dakota a few years ago. Opening with the sudden and senseless, horrifically violent destruction of a barely-hanging-on town in the Dakota Territories, it is a recounting of events as recorded in three ledgers by the town's "Mayor", a glorified bookkeeper named Blue. By dumb luck, willfully blind optimism, and a persuasive way with words, Blue and the remaining survivors (a brutally victimized and understandably spiteful barmaid, an orphaned teenager, and a deaf-and-dumb Indian doctor) and a few enterprising (however unlucky) souls who happen upon the place struggle to rebuild it into a proper town, better than before, fit to show up on a map. Once an aspiring New England lawyer, Blue started wandering out west following the death of his wife and young child. Approaching 50 years old, Blue has a "grass-isn't-greener-anywhere-ever" outlook but he pursues the project of his Little Town on the Prairie with a maddening sticktoitiveness. I always know it can't end well, and maybe it should worry me how much I relate to Blue and his relentless (however futile and tragic) optimism, but I always love going back to Hard Times.

  • Jean Poulos
    2019-04-16 20:59

    This is Doctorow’s first book written in 1960. I understand a movie was made from the book staring Henry Fonda. The book’s genre is classified as a serious western. “Welcome to Hard Times” is about average people who fail to organize and stand as one against evil and never recover from the devastating results of their failure to act. The story also has many subplots for a book that is only 224 pages or 6 hours audio.Doctorow has the traditional characters of a typical western, a bullying evil villain, the noble prostitute and the unwilling hero. But the author provides the reader with a big twist in that the hero fails to act. I was reminded of one of my favorite movies “High Noon” but in Doctorow’s story there is no Gary Cooper or John Wayne to do the job.The book provides an important lesson. The book is well written and moves at a fast pace. It is easy to read for a story with such an important topic. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. John Rubinstein did a great job narrating the story.

  • Stephen Gallup
    2019-04-26 00:54

    I happened upon this novel in a Florida bookstore while on vacation in 1978. The back cover warned that, once I started reading it I wouldn't be able to stop. "Ha! We'll see about that!" I said to myself and proceeded to scan the first page. "I can put this down," I told myself proudly, and I walked out of the store.Then I spent the rest of that vacation worrying about it! As soon as I got home, I found another copy and added it to my permanent collection. I also made a point of reading all Doctorow's other novels, and driving from my home in Virginia up to DC to hear him speak at the National Press Club.This is a very gritty Western, in the super-realism mode. I shared it with my father, who was a big fan of more popular Westerns, and he found it a bit too strong for his taste. (He did concede, however, that this was probably closer to the reality of the Old West than, say, Louis L'Amour.)The view Doctorow expresses in this and his other books feels a little bleak to me. But I have to admire the craftmanship. He does indeed know how to hook even an unwilling reader.

  • Mary
    2019-04-08 23:59

    I'm not sure if I liked this book or not, but maybe that's not a bad thing. It opened my eyes to what the early American West was truly like while destroying any naive Cowboys vs. Indians/Little House on the Prairie notions I had in my head. For that, I really have to praise this book. This book also provided a fascinating glimpse into fear and cowardice and revenge, how they permeate our lives and can destroy us in ways that "Bad Men from Bodie" cannot. I appreciated the narrator's cowardly perspective, how he tried to justify his actions that so many other characters found reprehensible, and how he differed from the traditional manly cowboy narrator. That said, there was a lot to digest in this book. It became depressing at times, and the scenes of violence and rape were especially difficult to stomach. But if you're looking for a thought-provoking and eye-opening tale of the Old West, give this book a shot.

  • Shawn
    2019-03-31 01:41

    I never read a western quite like this. Well read and disturbing it is quite the book. It is too simple to call the hero in "Welcome to Hard Times" a coward. At times he seems like a principled pacifist, but his ideals and actions do no one he knows any good. I liked the way Doctorow explored what happens when the helpless are prayed upon by pure irrational evil. It is not a pretty sight. Although I read the story in one weekend I would not call it a quick light read. The author's most famous book is "The March" and it has made its way on my to be read list.

  • Antha
    2019-04-10 01:44

    I just read this book at the end of last year and was blown away. I just gave it to a friend. Love the spare writing style for emotional impact.

  • Les McGuire
    2019-03-27 23:10

    I’ve heard mixed ideas as to how good (or bad) Doctorow is, and every work does not turn out as masterpiece, even for the best in any field. With that in mind, I have taken to reading works of any author that I haven’t read before starting from his (or her) first, and in sequence until I have enough data to say yes or no to the question, “will this author be worth reading?” The answer in this case is an unequivocal “yes!” Set in the old west, the plot is a bit different from many of the “western” stories I have enjoyed over the years. Though the focus is on development of a town, we have a a bad guy to hate, a good guy to cheer for, and two kinds of trouble looming on the horizon - one predictable, one unexpected. As a first novel, I found the storyline, pacing, and prose all to be unusually good. I am eagerly looking forward to more!