Wednesday, January 19, 2011

don't stand so close to me

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.

Edgar Allan Poe (19 january 1909-1949) poet, editor, writer

for those who enjoy reading novels inspired by the lives of historical figures, make sure you check out matthew pearl's 2006 novel the poe shadow. the book focuses on the quest of a baltimore lawyer who becomes somewhat obsessed with trying to figure out the mystery surrounding the death of poe. I have to hand it to pearl, that it's a bit poetic to create a mystery novel around the mysterious death of poe who is often regarded as the father of the modern mystery story. pearl's debut novel, the dante club, is also an excellent read and it includes a fairly large cast of historical figures in the story.

other enjoyable reads where historical figures figure in include, (far from exhaustive, what follows is a random collection of a few of the books I've read, enjoyed, and whose titles I remember ) :
  • the alienist (and it's sequel the angel of darkness) by caleb carr - historical figure, teddy roosevelt, as police commissioner of nyc. I keep waiting for carr to do a screen adaptation!
  • most of the novels by tracy chevalier - of course, I loved girl with the pearl earring, but loved, loved, loved burning bright which was based on an imagined life of the imaginative william blake
  • barbara kingsolver's latest novel the lacuna (2009) - the story revolved around the life of a fictional character named harrison shepard, but important characters in shepard's story include diego rivera, frida kahlo, and troksky
  • homer and langley, by e.l. doctorow. a very fictionalized story based on the infamous collyer brothers - whose eccentric hoarding lifestyle turned out to be the death of them.
  • march by geraldine brooks although the book primarily centers on a historical fictional character (the main character is mr. march of little women fame) henry david thoreau and ralph waldo emerson also appear in the novel
what are your favorite books which feature historical characters?

the police's 1980 hit song don't stand so close to me

wall wednesday continues, for the entire series to day, check out the 'wall art' tag

photo: barcelona, march 2007


Alan Burnett said...

It is a tricky category to nominate for. Fear of legal action stops authors concocting fiction around real living people : although several good books use a very thin disguise (could Adam Lang in Robert Harris' "The Ghost" be anyone other than Tony Blair?). Alternatively they go so far back that the historical figure they deal with is almost unknown in any other than history books or fiction (Thomas Cromwell in Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" would be the best example of that)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

alan, how could i forget wolf hall - i read it last year, and it was a great read. thank goodness it had a character key in the front of the book, i had to keep going back to it to remember who was who and how were they 'related' to other characters. and didn't it seem as if there were a lot of thomases in the story!

will have to check out the ghost.

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