Monday, 26 March 2007

Verisimilitude and the earwig!

(Random wanderings whilst waiting for the rain to stop and potato planting to start.)

Rose Tremain: Music and Silence

The bodice ripping was a rite of passage - through which the narrative had to pass in order to allow for the 'symbolism', and imagery of the ending?

A basic problem for historical fiction - you work so hard at making it seem realistic and establishing the ‘factual’ that you give away the ability to be 'unrealistic' and with it the associated heightening of thought and feeling?

Rose Tremain almost carries it off – but the cracks show – the ‘earwig’ really could have been stuck, died, caused infection and loss of hearing (after all, why are earwigs called ear wigs!) – but to live, survive the hot oil and then start ‘communicating’ with Marcus?

Is the mongrel nature of ‘Historical Fiction’ a source of strength or weakness?

Its strength lies in the ‘truth’ of “it really happened”, s/he really existed – actual places, actual items: Eyewitness testimony to the strangeness of our world. Curiosity and the drive to explain – even ordinary lives (Why else would biographies of footballers be bought – if not finished?).

Claire is just one such ‘ordinary’. But he is fictional – why include him? Why not deal with Dowland, a real lutanist (have I just forged the word – the dictionary doesn’t like it – no, it is used in the book!).

I have a copy of the film made from ‘Restoration’ – and none of the problems arise: Historical fiction works better on the screen – and interestingly, on stage? Ms Tremain in fact makes frequent reference to Shakespeare’s Historical fictions. Could the perceived ‘lowly status’ of Historical fiction actually reflect a problem of the genre’s ability to carry certain meanings?

I just managed to catch up with Melvin Bragg’s Radio 4 programme on Epistolary Literature – worth listening to for its own sake but also interesting in the context of this book.

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