I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so excited: Ian Rankin has a new book coming out next month! Guardian preview here, "Rankin Reveals Details of New Detective", and it's a new detective since John Rebus is now retired (sob). His name is Malcolm Fox, and I can hardly wait!!!. Joy!!!
Also from The Guardian, here is a list from Marjorie Blackman of 10 of the best graphic novels. For anyone looking for some of the best graphic novels - the classics in the genre - this might be a place to begin. Which would mean myself, also, since I'm so new at reading the genre!
And here, because the Guardian seems to have some good sections for this Saturday, is a review of the very first Patricia McKillip book, the one the won the very first World Fantasy Award: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. I read this book over 20 years ago and gave it to the only person I knew then who read fantasy, I loved it so much! It's one that's due for a reread soon, too. This is a fabulous review of a fantasy classic that I think everyone should read.
And, one of my favourite Canadian fantasy writers, Guy Gavriel Kay, has a wonderful piece on what using real-life figures in fiction might actually mean, and how fantasy is better at imagining the truth of another's life, in "Are Novelists Entitled to use Real-Life Characters?" That's the question I've been thinking over lately, wondering why I'm not drawn to the same mystery series that Bride at Bride of the Book God has been reading, Nicola Upson's new series starring Josephine Tey using her real name, Elizabeth Mackintosh. Her post is here. Kay asks, what right do we have to put words and thoughts in real-life figures' mouths and minds, when we don't know what they were thinking or feeling? I wonder, why use someone who was once alive, who doesn't really have anything to do with the story? It seems to me a failure of imagination, of cheating - it's one thing to write a biography, and make educated guesses, based on events in the person's life, their own words and possible letters etc. It is quite another to take a real person, and make them into fiction, without using them to create a new figure, which is what fiction is about. Writers take bits and pieces of the people they meet, the phrases they use, mannerisms, and put the bits together to make a new whole. To take a real person, and give them fictional thoughts and dreams - I find that disturbing. Yes, I agree with what Kay says in his article!
What about you, dear reader? Are you drawn to books that feature real people in fictional settings? Do you think this is an honest way to tell a story? And yes, that means I am criticizing Joyce Carol Oates' book Blonde, without ever having read it. And it does bother me that I am even forced to make this kind of choice in my reading.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy biographies and history! I think I am concerned about the invasion of the person. Unless a writer specifically aims his arrow at a person by making them into a badly-disguised character, which we all know has happened! - I think that people are entitled to their privacy. I really enjoyed Josephine Tey's most famous work, The Daughter of Time, but I'm not sure I like her as the star of a mystery series she isn't writing herself. It's the continued line of blurring of reality that James Frey laid wide open with his biography that turned out to be a little bit untrue. Somehow, Kay says, we are left with almost no privacy at all. I would add, we don't know what is true any more, not really, not if we are putting words and ideas in people who were alive once, ideas they never would have had. And to be honest, this is the reason why I haven't picked up Laurie King's reworking of Sherlock Holmes with Mary Russell. I read most of Sherlock Holmes while a teenager, and I must have imbibed a sense that Sherlock Holmes was wary around women, and didn't think of them as equals. I have tried to imagine Sherlock Holmes sparring with a woman, and while I can see the appeal - he is so darned intelligent, and wouldn't we love to be the woman who is intelligent enough for him? - I don't see him as ever in domestic bliss. I can't read the Mary Russell series (even though I really like anything else Laurie King has written!) because she has changed a literary figure into something he's not. She may have made it better, but that wasn't how Doyle originally wrote him, and so he had something different in mind. I can't help asking, why didn't Ms King make a character similar to Sherlock, invent a male character that was better than Sherlock?
So what right do writers have to change other works, and what right do they have to use real people in fictionalize works where their words and actions are not real?
Let me know if you have any thoughts, or if you care - I'm curious, and very interested to see if I am the only one (well, other than Mr Kay!) who does think it's important. (Sorry here to Bride, who really likes what Upson has done to the real-life people Josephine Tey and her friend Archie Penrose in the series!!!) See? It's not an easy topic, and no one will agree completely, but I'd really like to know if it's important to you or not, dear Gentle Reader.
I hope you have a happy Friday with a good book!