William Blake (28 November 1757–1827) poet and artist
historical novels which feature notable figures are one of my guilty pleasures. a couple years ago I read tracy chevalier's brilliant book burning bright which touched on the life of william blake and captured the tumultuous era in which he lived. I've enjoyed all of chevalier's books, many include famous artists as minor or major characters. according to ms chevalier's website she has a new novel, remarkable creatures. the book is currently available in the u.k but has yet to be released in the u.s. - but it won't be long. I've already put my name on the list at the library as I'm number two on the list I expect I will be getting a copy as soon as they get processed! unlike many of her other novels, the central historical figure in this book isn't an artist but rather is mary anning, an 18th century fossil collector and paleontologist and reputably the source of inspiration for the classic tongue twister 'she sells sea shells by the seashore.'
earlier this month I mentioned the lacuna, the new historical novel by barbara kingsolver. with only 70 pages to go in this 507 page tome, the book is exceeding my lofty expectations. I probably would have finished it a couple days ago, but it's one of those books where I find myself putting the book down to go research some passing remark or fact. for example, at one point harrison shepard, the central character of the book, who writes novels, fictional protagonist is likened to 'studs lonigan' - the name rang a bell, but I didn't know what bell it was ringing. I find out studs lonigan is the character of a triology of books by chicago writer james t. farrell and was the source of the nickname for studs terkel. now, I haven't read farrell's books, but have read quite a few books by terkel. with so many books and so little time, I don't know if I'll get around to reading the farrell books, but that's cool, I also learned the books were adapted twice into movies - once in 1960 and another time in 1979. maybe I'll see if I can find one of the movies.
an artful video featuring music by moby and incorporating the words from blake's poem the sick rose; some of the animated images are reminiscent of blake's etchings and illuminated prints.
illustrations: top - a rose, while not crimson, does evoke the spirit of blake's poem. cleveland - november 2009
bottom, copy of blake's illustrated poem the sick rose, borrowed with permission if asked from here click on image to enlarge.
this just in! speaking of historical fiction, I just had an email from the library saying that a copy of wolf hall is available to be picked up! what was that I was saying about so many books, so little time. good thing the next book group book is relatively short - for curious minds that book is justine, by lawrence durrell - set between wwI and wwII, could we consider it to be historical fiction as well?