“A ferocious feat of the imagination... Every scene is perfectly realized and feeds into the whole —the themes and symbols echoing and reverberating.”
“The political novel of our age... the best work of its kind.”
—The New Republic
“Like reading a capsule history of the American left in the twentieth century... Public knowledge comes face to face with personal private pain, and the result is staggering.”
“It is a daring theme: What would happen to the children who had watched FBI agents take their parents from a New York apartment, were shunted from foster homes to shelters, visited their parents in a death house, grew up in a manic historical period... This is an extraordinary contemporary novel, a stunning work.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“A nearly perfect work of art, and art on this level can be only a cause for rejoicing.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
From The Book of Daniel
First they led in my father. They had rightly conceived that my mother was the stronger... They wanted the thing done with as little fuss as possible. They wanted it to go smoothly. It is not a pleasant job, executing people, and they wanted to do it with dispatch. His legs were weak. He had to be held up. His eyes were red from crying, but he was drained and now they were dry. He wore slippers, grey slacks and a loose shirt with the sleeves rolled. A round area on the top of his head had been shaved. His right pant leg had been slit with a scissor.
There were a number of people in the room with him. The warden, the executioner, three guards, the rabbi, two doctors and three reporters chosen by lot to represent the press corps... My father’s hands were shaking and his breathing was rapid and shallow. He had been advised that a phone with a direct line to Washington would be in the execution chamber. He did not look for it when he entered the room. He made no sign that acknowledged the presence of any of the onlookers. He had to be helped into the chair, gently lowered, like an invalid. When he was seated his breathing became more rapid. He closed his eyes and clenched his hands in his lap.
Nothing had gone right. No cause had rallied. The world had not flamed to revolution. The issue of the commutation of the sentence, their chance for life, seemed to have turned on the quality, the gentility, the manners, of the people fighting for them, The cause seemed to have been discredited as a political maneuver. As if there was some grand fusion of associative guilt— the Isaacsons confirmed in guilt because of who campaigned for their freedom, and their supporters discredited because they campaigned for the Isaacsons. The truth was beyond reclamation. The President of the United States had called in the Attorney General of the United States just before he announced his decision on the Isaacson’s petition for clemency. It is believed that the Attorney General said to the President, “Mr President, these folks have got to fry.”
Excerpted from The Book of Daniel by E. L. Doctorow Copyright © 2012 by E.L. Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.