Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Morning Reading: "Just the Facts, Ma'am"

In this week's New Yorker, an article by Jill Lepore, titled, "Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fake memoirs, factual fictions, and the history of history."

It opens:

What makes a book a history? In the eighteenth century, novelists called their books “histories,” smack on the title page. No one was more brash about this than Henry Fielding, who, in his 1749 “History of Tom Jones, a Foundling,” included a chapter called “Of Those Who Lawfully May, and of Those Who May Not Write Such Histories as This.” Fielding insisted that what flowed from his pen was “true history”; fiction was what historians wrote.

“I shall not look on myself as accountable to any Court of Critical Jurisdiction whatever: For as I am, in reality, the Founder of a new Province of Writing,” Fielding explained. Tom Jones’s claim to truth is different from Margaret Jones’s. Earlier this month, Jones, also known as Margaret Seltzer, tried to pass off a gangland bildungsroman as the story of her life. Pulped days after it was published, the book, titled “Love and Consequences,” is a fraud; “Tom Jones” is not. Fielding was playing; Seltzer was just lying.

For the rest, click here.

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