Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Experiential View of History

People may not agree with your thesis and that is ok. Traditionally history books have been a recitation of facts capped off with a thesis that supposedly is supported by these facts. I like big thick history books for  my own personal reading but I am not a majority. In fact I do not really believe in the method. History books are often judged by citing new information as the salient point of any new history book. Or that the author should come up with a radical thesis not presented before.

This is ridiculous. It is the journey not the destination. Unfortunately many authors rely on the  old method of bigger is better. People do not want to be  buried in information so a publisher can sell a five hundred page book. It is connotation versus denotation; what is implied is always much powerful than what is literally stated. This is true of fiction and nonfiction.

But some writers feel that the proliferating of  facts justifies the thesis. History should be told in scenes like a novel. In the year 2017  this is the job of narrative nonfiction. In Madam President I leave it up to the reader to decide if Edith Wilson was the president. It is through the multifarious layering of the story in scenes that  the reader arrives at truth or verisimilitude. To do anything else is playing  with a stacked deck.

I think people want to learn history but they also want to interact with it. The writing style should convey the story and step out of the way. A simple style is usually better sprinkled with bits of prose that carries the weight of the scene. To hit people over the head with heavy turgid facts is inviting the reader to close the book on a story that should be told.

Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

Books by William Hazelgrove