Thursday, October 8, 2009

Historical fiction...not a distraction?

I've got STACKS of books in my office that don't belong to me. I have Buffalo, SUNY Fredonia and UW Madison library books in neatly (artistically? not sure) assorted narrative skyscrapers in my office according to stack is about the New Deal, another about Buffalo, some contribute to my Diss "theories," whatever those'll end up being. One of the greatest lessons/tools I learned in grad school was how to "read" a book in under 30 minutes....start with index and table of contents, browse the intro to see the author's point, find the pages needed for my topic, read back a few and forward a few from that, and BAM! That book makes it into a stack or not. Then, they sit perched, waiting for me to really go digging as the gobbledy-gook I'm writing needs them.

But, in the midst of some are books about Buffalo, a few that fall under the category "Historical fiction." The book City of Light was this, and although recommended because it provided a snapshot of Buffalonia history, was poorly written, thin and somewhat bizarre in plot, and not the best way to spend a few late nights. Felt like the author was trying too hard and left all sorts of nuggets twisting in the winds of Lake Erie. Oh well.

Another is The Birth of the Erie Canal, written in 1960, extremely romantic and "imaginative" with characters' characteristics, but sort of fun to read. That's what I did last evening after getting the kiddo to bed and still having energy (where it came from, not sure. It was a long day....). So, I buzzed through this ol' beauty and enjoyed it. There wasn't a single mention of music at all, but the historian in me often dukes it out with the musician, and I found myself fascinated with the history. What a chore and battle is was to tame western New York (after, of course, wiping it clean of the Five Nations....but that is another story, not fictional at all, and probably not fun to read...). Holy canoli. There is a sketch of the Buffalo Harbor from 1815, and I just can't get my head around it. And, because the downtown library and Historical Society are so ship-shape around here, I've looked at A LOT of historical pictures of The Buff. I think conceptually, I can't imagine being a pioneer--in the literal sense--and viewing this wild mane of a region as it was back then as navigational and livable. Phew.

So, as I weed out distractions, I figure that historical fiction will present itself as a viable way to entertain, invite sleep to come, and still keep me in the pocket of my research when the day is done. Once finished with The Diss, I think I'll expand into other areas of the country.....the California coast, Rockies, New England, etc. Any suggestions welcome!


cara said...

Devil in the White City ??? Chicago World's Fair ... good historical fiction murder mystery.

Judy B said...


Katie said...

if you're interested in historical fiction outside of the realm of the Buff, let me know. I've been getting into historical fiction books the past few years as an escape from work/music/research related reading. It is a great day when I can read and not do anything else!