Truth, Fiction and the Rosenbergs

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The discussion was supposed to be about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for espionage and have haunted the artistic imagination ever since. But their conversation, sponsored by Fordham Law School and presented Thursday night at the Park Cafe in the Time Warner Center before an audience of about 200 people, soon moved from the Rosenberg trial to more timely issues. "Do artists worry about getting it right at all?" asked Thane Rosenbaum, a novelist and law professor who served as the evening's moderator. "Is that the burden of the artist?"

E. L. Doctorow was there, and he talked about his 1971 novel "The Book of Daniel," which considers a couple modeled on the Rosenbergs through the eyes of their orphaned son. So was Tony Kushner, who placed the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg at the deathbed of her prosecutor Roy Cohn in his Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Angels in America."

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