Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Couple of Thoughts on Writing History

History has a crap reputation. The nature of the beast. History is written by the last man standing. He has a vested interest in making his own crap smell sweet.

That accounts for the tone. History texts often read dry and self-righteous. And they sound all boring and know-it-all-y. But really? It’s an act.

History gets to be more fun when you realize it’s a puzzle. If he lied because he wanted to look more kind and she lied in order to look more successful and that group over there lied because they knew everyone would hate them if the truth came out, well then, what’s left?

The answers we shake out when we look in the right places and with our arms properly akimbo.


The soft places between the lies where truth comes to fall.

***

This is the first of a series of posts I wrote for my week on Moments in Crime that I’m going to re-post here. My feeling is that the readership of this blog is different and I like a few of those posts well enough to drag them over here. Another reason is this: since Death Was in the Picture is a very recent release and reviews are appearing with some regularity, I don’t want it to be all BSP all the time around here. (And I do like to share those reviews with you here!) On the other hand, I’m very close to completing my current work in progress, so a lot (almost all!) of my energy is focused on that right now. More news on that in a while.

In the meantime, I’ll cut the BSP with a bit of previously seen material and hope that, in the long run, you’ll forgive the gentle indiscretion.

1 comment:

Peter Rozovsky said...

There was s time when writing history was considered an art, not a science. And even in our more recent scientific times, some historians have been thrilling writers, Fernand Braudel and some of his followers, for instance.

I know that our earliest historians wrote as if they were on the scene, but their current popular-history followers give me the creeps when they try the same thing. I'll occasionally pick up a book of history at a bookshop, and if it begins by setting a scene -- It was a bleak, windy day in Washington. Abraham Lincoln turned to his secretary of war and ... -- I put the book back down.

We might want to redefine history as accurate, good writing, but perhaps we should redefine good writing first.
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