National Book Award winning author E.L. Doctorow discussed how he came up with the idea for his most recent novel, “Andrew’s Brain,” on Feb.25 as part of Queens College’s Evening Readings.
“I knew a man years ago who had the troubles Andrew had. He was a good man, but had a history of disaster. I never forgot that; that a person could be good and kind and be responsible for disaster that happened to people around them,” E.L. Doctorow said.
Andrew, who is a cognitive scientist, is the main character of the book.
“He is very smart and very funny. He has a lot on his mind and he’s self-critical. For him, love is redemption. He feels that love can make him a new man,” E.L. Doctorow said.
This was one of many topics Doctorow discussed with Leonard Lopate in LeFrak Concert Hall.
The novel is written in first person narration and is composed as a monologue, but Andrew sometimes refers to himself in the third person.
“He’s talking to someone he calls Doc. The point of view is totally Andrew’s; as the writer I speak through him,” Doctorow said.
An interesting element about this novel is that there is no distinction between what is real and what is not.
“Most books make a distinction, but in this case I don’t. You can’t tell if he’s talking about something imaginary or not,” Doctorow said.
To encapsulate this thought, Doctorow initially titled the book, “In Dreams Awake,” after a Henry David Thoreau quote that says, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
“I think of this book as a series of interlocking images that by no right have connection with each other,” Doctorow said.
“I was moved by [the novel]. There are quite a number of passages, in particular, that affected me,” founding director of the QC Evening Readings, Joseph Cuomo said.
After answering a few questions from interviewer Leonard Lopate, Doctorow gave some advice to students and aspiring writers in the audience.
“If what you’re doing works, it doesn’t matter how it works,” Doctorow said.
“Something that Edgar said that resonated with me is that we write to find out what it is we’re writing,” Cuomo said.
For more information about QC’s Evening Readings visit www.qcreadings.org