Let me add my two cents to this discussion: as you were exchanging your thoughts on "history", "novel" and the space in between, usually called "non-fiction novel" (as "In Cold Blood"), I was reminded very much of Alexandre Dumas. I guess we can all agree that by the time Dumas wrote (the middle of the XIX Century), the "pure", fictional novel had been solidly established. However, Dumas made free use of true historical events and characters and intermingled them with the stories of his "purely" fictional characters. Now, there is a qualification to this last assertion: there WAS a real captain of musketeers called D'Artagnan, and his memoirs are extant, you can buy them and read them.
Now, Dumas didn't expect his reasders to believe that what he told was "history", but perhaps he expected them to believe that his portrayal of historical characters was, at least, seriously debatable, that is, subject to opinion, but not "false": Richelieu would have been revered by some people and reviled by others, but no one would deny that he was a cunning, able statesman, a loyal ally and a fearsome foe. The same with Mazarino: a cowardly miser, or the saviour of the monarchy during the infancy of Louis XIV, but certainly a lesser figure than Richelieu. I could go on, but my point is that there IS something that is not history not purely fiction (remember Hilary Mantel's saga about Thomas Cromwell).
Since you can not pierce the minds of historical characters beyond, say their letters, the novelist allows him/herself to imagine their intimate thoughts and emotions to try to make sense of their actions.
I think LitB is a superb example of this effort, always conscious of memory's failings and the unavoidable opposition of points of view. Lincoln, too, is revered by some and reviled by others, and the circumstances attending Willie's death would have to be necessarily polemical.
: Yes, Defoe, in particular, didn't write
: novels. He wrote forgeries. He REALLY
: hoped that his stories would be taken as
: true since the novel had not really been
: invented. (Or, to be more precise, the
: English novel had not been invented.) His
: aim was to make as much money as possible,
: and he believed that his books would only
: sell if the public believed they were true.
: Richardson does not seem to expect that
: anyone will actually believe that he
: stumbled upon a bunch of letters, but the
: epistolary novel is also an attempt at
: verisimilitude. This is part of the reason
: that Fielding and Sterne were such pioneers,
: since clearly they hoped that readers would
: be interested in lengthy works that were
: unabashedly fictional.
: Yes. I knew the citations might not be real.
: In fact, I actually flipped over to Amazon
: and checked out a few of the more likely
: sounding ones to see if the books existed.
: (They did.) I did not read all the
: footnotes, but sometimes the content led me
: to check where it had come from, in the
: sense of, "Well, that can't be
: real!" It was very hard to tell.
: I know of no other novel that uses citations
: this way. Saunders cited George Plimpton's
: book on Edie Sedgwick as an influence since
: it is a collage of voices, some of which
: contradict each other. It's nonfiction,
: however. Supposedly. It's an interesting
: technique. Not mind-blowing like Nabokov's
: idea to hide a novel in the endnotes to a
: lengthy poem, but imaginative and rewarding.
: I would like to start talking about the
: ghosts and other aspects of content, but I
: don't want to produce spoilers so I'll wait
: until Guillermo joins the conversation.
: --Previous Message--
: First, I want to think about the citations
: or quotations from LitB.
: When you first come to them, they give you
: an impression of 'reality', a sense that
: this is the reporting of true events. But I
: didn't just start reading yesterday, so I
: know they might not be real. Other authors;
: particularly, I think, early authors; have
: used various devices to make the text seem
: 'true'. So these might be real or might be
: fictional. I'm not an academic, so I'm not
: going to check all the citations. I wouldn't
: know some were real and some were not if I
: hadn't read the questions for study groups
: or whatever it's called. I assume a certain
: degree, if one can speak that way, of truth.
: I assume Saunders is interested in Lincoln
: and has read a few books about this, that he
: knows the basic story, so even if he makes
: up all the quotations, there is still a
: basic truth to history in them. I imagine
: that the historical sources really do
: sometimes contradict each other and that
: that amuses Saunders and that he plays with
: Did you actually read all the citations? I
: probably read the first four and then maybe
: one from time to time, and I noticed the
: shorter ones. How do they affect my reading
: of the story? Not much really. I suppose
: they make one feel that the story is
: connected to the 'real' Abe Lincoln.
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