Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists

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9781623568252: Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists
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In this new collection of interviews, some of America's most prominent novelists identify the key intellectual developments that led to the rise of the contemporary biographical novel, discuss the kind of historical 'truth' this novel communicates, indicate why this narrative form is superior to the traditional historical novel, and reflect on the ideas and characters central to their individual works.

These interviews do more than just define an innovative genre of contemporary fiction. They provide a precise way of understanding the complicated relationship and pregnant tensions between contextualized thinking and historical representation, interdisciplinary studies and 'truth' production, and fictional reality and factual constructions. By focusing on classical and contemporary debates regarding the nature of the historical novel, this volume charts the forces that gave birth to a new incarnation of this genre.

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About the Author:

Michael Lackey is Associate Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, USA. He is the author of The Modernist God State: A Literary Study of the Nazis' Christian Reich (2012), and African American Atheists and Political Liberation: A Study of the Socio-Cultural Dynamics of Faith, which won the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title in 2008. He is also the editor of The Haverford Discussions: A Black Integrationist Manifesto for Racial Justice (2013).

Review:

“In this absorbing collection of interviews, University of Minnesota professor Michael Lackey and his accomplished subjects raise complex questions about how history and fiction intersect, and how the novelist blends the two to probe larger emotional and historical truths. In trying to answer why the genre of biographical fiction has grown since the 1980s, Lackey asked 16 writers (including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Russell Banks, and Joyce Carol Oates) to explain their projects and process. The result is a vibrant discussion about the differences between biographical fiction and history, and the nature of the novel form―what liberties it allows, what boundaries it should not cross. Readers are privy to the writing process: research conducted, choices made, inspirations found. Although Lackey and some of his subjects raise the idea of postmodernism and the rise of psychology as reasons for the emergence of the biographical novel, the book is not heavy on theory, nor is it necessary to have read all the books discussed. This collection will appeal to readers interested in why literature matters and how the past shines light on our present, our future, and our humanity.” –Publishers Weekly

“... [P]resents a multi-voiced exploration of what contemporary readers value and desire, the complex and elusive processes of writing a compelling work of fiction, and the relationship between historical events and present-day society. ... prominent writers like Joyce Carol Oates and Jay Parini show readers of Truthful Fictions that biographical novels accomplish more than just offering an entertaining version of a historical subject.” -Bethany Ober Mannon, Penn State University, U.S. Studies Online

“Lackey travels the United States to interview 16 practitioners of biographical novelization, such as Joyce Carol Oates, Edmund White, and Julia Alvarez as well as less widely read writers as Lance Olsen and Rebecca Kanner. The interview format conveys the thoughtful intelligence and insights of these authors ... This book is useful for readers seeking recommendations of the best American (and some British) biographical fiction ... Also of interest to those who like to read writer interviews.” – Library Journal

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