"The Anvil Chorus: Historical Fiction and Social Justice"
Sunday, 4-5:15 pm. Lesley Hall [moderator], Jane Acheson, Deepa D., Ellen Klages
My notes stop when the moderator began taking questions from the audience, because my hand gave out. This is all paraphrase, unless it's in quotes, and then I am pretty sure I am quoting directly, but of course my memory might be at fault. LH as moderator mostly offered questions but did not answer them.
DD: focus on historiography, unknown voices
EK: writes historical novels set in 20th century
JA: proposed panel; she researches history and read awful children's books that elided unpalatable parts of history ("they were pants.")
LH: "the past is another country"
EK: "You can't visit the past, because your time machine does not work." By writing the book, you make a time machine for the reader. In The Green Glass Sea, "everybody smokes." She gets flak because of this, even though it's historically accurate. She did lots of research, felt duty to people still living who lived through that period.
JA: commented on portraying history as it was. studies 1840-1860 U. S. west of the Missouri River. many people then were non-literate or didn't write anything down. hard to find sources.
DD: commented on how history is made; history is something we invent, the stories we tell about what happened.
LH: the writer knows the details and uses them, but current myths say to the writer "that's anachronistic"
EK: "Groovy" used as slang in 1946-1947, but couldn't use it because it's so associated in modern mind with 1960s. writer has to anticipate this when writing.
DD: easier to find anachronisms when more sources are available, especially in fiction from the period. choose period with more sources.
EK: authors sometimes knows more than nitpickers, but someone will always care. her theory, "if I can't find it, who can?"
DD: with the caveat that sources might be easily available to, for example, her as an Indian that the writer couldn't get or couldn't read.
JA: embarrassing words or facts weren't always written down--private versus public behavior. used example of slang we know was in use because it's quoted in court records.
DD: how much of third person omniscient follows what our character would? what does the narrator tell us?
EK: reader knows more than character because "we are all from the future."
LH: writers who got it right?
DD and JA said they were better at finding authors who got it wrong.
EK: "you can't get it right." reader has modern sensibility.
JA: talked about Kit Carson's daughter, reality versus children's book about her.
DD: authorial voice can intrude; she finds racism in the author's voice more appalling than the historical racism in Gone With the Wind.
JA: narrative authority.
EK: authorial intrusion breaks fourth wall. she's not a fan of omniscient in historical fiction, unless the fourth wall remains.
DD: Louisa May Alcott--she likes that omniscient voice, which makes the world portrayed more interesting and subversive, but Alcott was writing about her own contemporary period.
[then my thumb went out and i had to stop writing.]