Posts Tagged: historical fiction
“Novels about psychically and sexually burdened paintings have a rich literary pedigree,” writes UNC Professor of Art History Maggie Cao for Public Books. Cao’s essay tackles the subject of forgery, which puts “the intimate, almost magical role that works of art play in people’s emotional and erotic lives” into conversation with modern market forces that have, as of late, transformed art collectors from neurotic worshippers of art to high-tech investors....more
In a Q & A with debut novelist Yaa Gyasi on the ZYZZYVA blog, Ismail Muhammad asks Gyasi to expound on narrative structure and the far-reaching effects of the international slave trade:
I realized that I was interested in tracking how slavery, colonialism, and institutionalized racism work over a very long period of time—not just the beginning and end, but the movement from the beginning to the end.
I want readers to understand how racism and antiracism can exist at the same time even in a revolutionary setting.
Antiracism in Cuba: The Unfinished Revolution by author and professor Devyn Benson is the long-untold history of racism against Black Cubans....more
Over at the New Yorker, Lucy Ives writes about how some recent works of fiction challenge conventional definitions of historical fiction by “offer[ing] a past of competing perspectives, of multiple voices.” Citing works by Danielle Dutton, Marlon James, and John Keene, Ives notes:
These fictions do not focus on fact but on fact’s record, the media by which we have any historical knowledge at all.
We’ve always been fascinated by the possibility of understanding the person behind the work. For Lit Hub, Heller McAlpin examines a long tradition of writing about writers:
There’s a special frisson of pleasure in reading about writers’ early struggles when you know what the future holds for them—which in the case of most of these authors is posthumous literary acclaim beyond their wildest dreams.
Jillian Cantor explains what drew her to the women in history, Margot Frank and Ethel Rosenberg, that she wrote her two novels on. Cantor is intrigued by women in history whose stories are lost or forgotten, and uses her writing to tell their stories:
…I began to think about what it might’ve been like to a be a wife and mother in the late 1940s and early 1950s, as well as what it might have been like for Ethel to be arrested, jailed, and executed for a crime I came to believe she was innocent of.
The historical novel describes then what might have happened within what happened; the feeling of being free within the machine of one’s fate, dare I even say the old consciousness.
For The New Republic, Alexander Chee explores historical fiction and whether the genre owes more to literature or historical accuracy....more
I write historical fiction. Some consider this an outré craft. If literary fiction is Brooklyn, the historical novel is Queens.
Over at the New York Times’s Sunday Book Review, Geraldine Brooks pens an essay on her experience recapturing the consciousness of people who lived more than 3,000 years ago through historical fiction....more
Ottessa Moshfegh views the past as a sort of fiction—she didn’t live it, so in a way, it is fiction to her. This view informs both her novels, which are full of deeply flawed characters and rich details.
But writing Eileen, set in 1960s New England, was fraught for the author:
I had to deal with what it meant to have my name on something, what it means to be a voice in the world, and the kind of voice I wanted to be.
I think there’s a lot of dissonance for women, where there’s how we want to live, and how we want to see ourselves, and then what our real circumstances are. And I think the more we can close that distance between who we want to be and who we really are—the happier we are.
Dig historical fiction? In the forthcoming issue of The New York Review of Books, Daniel Mendelsohn revisits Augustus, the last novel written by John Williams, author of the literary cult favorite, Stoner. “Like the best works of historical fiction about the classical world,” Mendelsohn writes, “Augustus suggests the past without presuming to create it.”
Originally published in 1972, Augustus will be re-released by NYRB Classics on August 19th, the two thousandth anniversary of the emperor’s death....more
At HTMLGIANT, brilliant craft advice from a cartoon! “If you’re not popular, and you write a good poem, nobody gives a shit.”
The Guardian goes off on Martin Amis, complaining of “the continued endurance of a surprising tolerance for misogyny from vaunted men of letters who came of age as writers in an era when the loathing of women for being women – rather than for being crap writers, or unkind people, or whatever – was still legitimate.” Phew....more