Monday, February 4, 2013

history vs fiction

So they think they've identified the bones of King Richard III. Good. Now it's time to reconsider what kind of a person and monarch he was.

Like most English-speaking people, I learned about Richard from Shakespeare's play. And then, while reading British mystery novels, I came across Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time. She argued, and convinced me, that Richard was falsely maligned by Tudor historians, who rewrote history,m as the victors always do, to make him more villainous than he was in truth. Read it, and see it you agree.

I guess it's the novelist's skills, but many politicians come across as more interesting, and even more forgivable, when they appear as fictional characters than when we read regular biographies. Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men makes his Huey Long character  lovable and understandable. Even Joe Klein's Bill Clinton figure in Primary Colors is more forgivable than the former president himself. And Gore Vidal's Burr made the treasonous Vice President more likable and three-dimensional.

My two favorite Washington novelists are Ward Just  and Thomas Mallon. Check them out, too.

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