Wednesday News: Paradox of Roald Dahl, longevity of historical fiction, husband eBays wife, and NBA noms continue
ROALD DAHL TURNS A HUNDRED – So yesterday would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, and his estate has supervised publication of a collection of letters between Dahl and his mother. Despite – or perhaps because of – the almost loving perversity of his storytelling, Dahl’s work continues to appeal to both children and adults. And such fondness for his stories is belied by the absolute disgrace that Dahl seemed to be as a person, which his letters apparently do nothing to ameliorate. And oddly, despite the fact that Dahl’s apparently kept a great deal of correspondence, none of her letters is extant. His mother kept every letter he ever wrote. Her son didn’t even visit his mother’s grave until she had been dead 20 years.
Dahl—mouselike—maneuvered to his advantage from an early age. At ten, writing from boarding school, he gave his mother stern instructions as to which reading material he required: “Remember not to send Bubbles but Children’s Newspaper.” Elsewhere: “I don’t want you to send me raisins for a little time now because I won’t be able to have them.” At eleven: “You haven’t sent my watch yet, isn’t it ready?” By the time Dahl was sixteen, gold watches had turned to motorcycles, which, then as now, were difficult to insure: “They seem to think that a motor cyclist aged 16 is merely going to take his bike & run it into a brick wall as a matter of course.” Also prominent are exhausting, blow-by-blow records of casual sporting events and detailed reports of warts, flus, and bowel movements. – The New Yorker
Why Historical Fiction Will Never Go Away – So I have this recurring conversation with friends about how historical Romance is often more romance and less history, with elements of the past sewn rearranged into the story as a way to make an argument about social mores or contemporary social politics. Justin O’Donnell writes about the evolution of historical fiction in general, especially the trend toward re-packaging the genre as “neo-whatever.” But I think it’s here that his argument really gets interesting – and relevant to all of the debates over whether historical fiction (and Romance, for those of us who read it) is really about history, or, as he refers to it, about an author’s theory of history.
When I interned for a local literary agency this past year, I noticed a dearth of historical fiction submissions. In an attempt to avoid the stigma, writers called it something else, evidence they’re catching up to market trends. On top of these concessions to rebranding, I noticed these writers had something in common: they still drew from the same historical tradition laid down by the father of historical fiction, Walter Scott.
Scott’s Waverly pretty much established the historical fiction genre in the 19th century; he wasn’t so much a historical novelist as he was a novelist with a theory of history.
And here is the point I want to make: historical fiction might be changing, lagging in popularity, or losing ground in the “is it sexy?” competition, but it isn’t going away. It isn’t going away because for as long as there are people on this Earth, there will be novelists with a theory of history. Like an albatross, the title may be claimed by fewer writers (including Kerney), and more publishers might shy away from the genre, but the novelists who hold to a theory of history will continue to write it. – Publishers Weekly
Husband Puts Whining Wife Up For Sale On eBay – Because misogyny is SO FUNNY (and the listing, by the way, generated more than £65K in bids before eBay removed it).
“For sale one wife,” he wrote. “Not new has been used but still got some good miles left in her.”
“Reason for selling … I’ve had my fill and feel like there HAS to someone out there that is more deserving of her [than] me (oh dear god please let there be.)”
Going on to list Leandra’s body work and paint work as still in decent condition, he went on to say she had some skills in the kitchen, before listing her bad points:
“Often makes this noise that cannot be silenced unless you order brand new shiny parts of metal,” he quipped.
“Sometimes them skills in the kitchen result in you ending up in hospital. All in all not a bad model for the year. I’m sure some lucky guy will get lots of use.”
He finished the post inviting people to make him an offer before joking that he might consider a part exchange for a younger model.
“*T&C’s Once bought, you cannot return … EVER!” he concluded. – Yahoo Style UK
2016 National Book Awards: Poetry – Every day we’re getting a new longlist for the National Book Award. Today it’s nonfiction, yesterday it was poetry. In fact, I’m reading Monica Youn’s Blackacre right now (she’s also an attorney) and it’s just stunning:
“‘Blackacre’ is a centuries-old legal fiction — a placeholder name for a hypothetical estate. Treacherously lush or alluringly bleak, these poems reframe their subjects as landscape, as legacy — a bereavement, an intimacy, a racial identity, a pubescence, a culpability, a diagnosis. With a surveyor’s keenest tools, Youn marks the boundaries of the given, what we have been allotted: acreage that has been ruthlessly fenced, previously tenanted, ploughed and harvested, enriched and depleted.” – Graywolf Press – MPR News & Los Angeles Times
I wonder what the wife’s ebay listing for this husband would be? And what kind of bids she’d get for him?
Jayne that was *exactly * what I was thinking. I mean I was hoping she made the listing for her husband. Shakes head.
I’m surprised to see Scott as credited with creating historical fiction, when the gothic genre predated him and loved to use the pseudo-medieval to tell stories about the current climate. Or were they just too sexy (and commonly written by women) to be considered literary enough for that coveted parental title?
@MinaKelly: The relationship between the Gothic and the Historical Novel (a la Scott) has been addressed, and I think the main argument for Scott parallels the argument we have in genre Romance about wallpaper historicals. In other words, it’s one thing to use a historical backdrop to enhance certain storytelling elements (e.g. suspense, psychological terror, etc.) but quite another to use the form of the novel to focus on, be preoccupied with, or otherwise contemplate history as an idea. Especially since some of the early Gothics of the Romantic era were written by men, namely Horace Walpole, Charles Brockden Brown (one of my favorites), and Matthew “Monk” Lewis (genius!).