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Tony Grist

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H.G. Wells [Apr. 13th, 2011|01:35 pm]
Tony Grist
One of the things I like about Wells as a novelist is that he is completely fearless about tackling contemporary issues. The new excites him. He doesn't recollect in tranquillity or wait to see what the rest of the world thinks, but snatches at things while they're hot. Ann Veronica participates in a suffragette raid, the narrator of Tono-Bungay builds experimental gliders and airships.  I don't think there are many novelists around today who are prepared to risk burning their fingers like this on the utterly up to date. Instead our biggest names seem happier getting things out of books (as opposed to life) and setting their stories in the past. Hilary Mantell, for example, just won the Booker for a novel about Thomas Cromwell. 

[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2011-04-13 06:49 pm (UTC)
And a marvellous job Hilary Mantel did of Wolf Hall, too.

It's the book I wish I'd written. Even though my hubby described it as 'brilliantly unintelligible' (!)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-04-13 07:59 pm (UTC)
Well, I mustn't pass judgement on a book I haven't read, but I'm not sure I see the point of giving a 16th century politician a 21st century make-over.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2011-04-13 08:20 pm (UTC)
If that's the case, is there any point in writing historical fiction, full stop?

If the critics were harping on about how appropriate it was for the modern world, etc. etc, then that was just a lot of sycophantic BS. I felt her Cromwell was comfortably of his time, even if the style of the writing was extremely modern. There's a whole load of folk out there who feel they have to apologise for historical fiction, and justify its existence, because it's seen as a pathetic poor relation of 'real' literature. I think that all history is relevant for our understanding of the present age, and it's ignored at our peril... (Hey, I have to take this line, or I'd be out of a job!)

Unfortunately for me, it's a genre I thoroughly enjoy reading, so long as it's done well, and it's also a genre I enjoy writing! I like the opportunity it gives me to explore the past in a different way...

Try Mantel's 'A Place of Greater Safety'. It's brilliant!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-04-13 09:28 pm (UTC)
You're right, I'm in danger of pushing the argument too far.

I have a problem with books that foist a modern literary sensibility onto real historical personages. Peter Carey did it with the outlaw Ned Kelly. I read a few sentences, thought, "The real Kelly couldn't possibly have written like this" and put the book aside.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2011-04-13 09:46 pm (UTC)
Heh, heh. The idea of a book written from the viewpoint of Ned Kelly, in Ned Kelly Speak... Lovely...

When I wrote my historical, I just assumed I was translating it from the original Scots, which would've sounded like a cross between Chaucer, Shakespeare and Rab C Nesbitt...
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-14 06:29 am (UTC)

Can't wait to make a contribution

Hi - I am really happy to find this. Good job!
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-04-14 11:08 am (UTC)
I look forward to your impressions of Tono-Bungay. As you know, Mencken did not so much write of it approvingly as fawn over it.
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