Yes, it’s time to check in with your reading material once again!
This weekend I finished a bunch of Orson Scott Card books (say what you want about his political leanings, the dude can write a book!) and started Novel History: Historians and Novelists Confront America’s Past (and Each Other), edited by Mark Carnes. In it, a bunch of historians read various historical novels and deal with them in a historical context, and then the novelists get to respond to their criticisms. It’s a pretty neat experiment, even though the novelists seem a bit touchy about the mistakes they make. James M. McPherson points out that there are several odd factual errors in Russell Banks’ Cloudsplitter (a novel aboout John Brown), such as the date when Brown was executed, that have no bearing on the actual themes of the novel, and Banks seems to get a bit huffy about it, even though McPherson understands why Banks made some significant changes to history in order to work his themes into the novel. I haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but so far, it’s very interesting. Well, interesting if you dig history and historical novels, which I do. I’ve only read four of the novels discussed (Don DeLillo’s Libra, Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain), but the great thing about good literary and/or historical criticism is you don’t necessarily need to have read the text on which the analysis focuses. So, onward!
I’ve never actually read the full text of Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (I owned one of those “illustrated classics” back in the day – the ones with a drawing on one page and heavily abridged text on the other – and read it, but never the actual book), and I’m currently slowly reading it to my four-year-old. I say “slowly” because the wife is reading Charlotte’s Web to her, and if there’s a choice between an impressive pig, a friendly spider, and a cynical rat and Jules Verne, I’m afraid the four-year-old chooses Charlotte! Confound that E. B. White!
So, what’s on your agenda? Turn off Dancing With the Stars and read a good book!
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