Saturday, April 22, 2006

Thoughts on a quiet Saturday afternoon

Having just finished a 1500-word article on one historical novelist's works - particularly challenging because said works are outside of my normal reading tastes - I can now happily commence to guilt-free reading once more. Guilt-free, because I won't feel like I really ought to be working on something else instead. (This doesn't happen very often.)

In browsing through articles retrieved via Google News here at the reference desk, I found one interesting piece on matters historical. Britain's Financial Times published an article two weeks ago called "Rewriting History." From this, we learn that Henry James thought the historical novel was "condemned to a total cheapness" because "no author can truly imagine him or herself into a past consciousness." The second clause of this is perhaps true to some degree, but does that mean one shouldn't try?

What makes the introduction so delightfully ironic is that it makes you wonder how well Colm Toibin (The Master) and David Lodge (Author, Author) portrayed James himself in their own novels. What gall! Fortunately, author Angel Gurria-Quintana doesn't agree with James's premise. Overall, I found the article to be an excellent overview of what historical fiction is, and has the potential to be.


  1. Henry James. What can you say about a man who seemed to think there was absolutely nothing funny about naming a character Fanny Assingham?

  2. Did he really? I can only guess that neither word had its modern connotations then; otherwise the mind boggles.

  3. Glad to hear the article's finally done, Sarah! Mine's neeearly finished ;-)

  4. Best of luck, Alex :)

    As for me, I just needed time to sit down and make myself write it. It never fails - eight hours of very slow reference desk time usually does the trick for me.