Author Topic: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature  (Read 14392 times)

Junior

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Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« on: December 08, 2009, 07:09:36 PM »
Like the Random movie/tv threads, but more hoity toity.

I was talking in class yesterday about authenticity in literature. I don't really think it's super important as long as the story is good and the ideas compelling. For example, in a book about Native Americans (which happened to be our topic of discussion), I don't care if a detail is off when the author is talking about a certain ritual, especially if the changing of the detail is important to the characters or plot or whatever.

Do you agree?
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oneaprilday

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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2009, 07:51:38 PM »
Define "authenticity" in literature. There are different kinds, aren't there?

For a character or plot to be authentic, an author may have to change something else.

Junior

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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2009, 07:58:48 PM »
Well, we were talking about authenticity to a certain culture, I guess. The jumping off point was Walk Two Moons, a story about a Native American family written by a white woman. We began by talking about whether an author should or should not be able to write about an ethnicity or group of people that they weren't a part of. I quickly dismissed this by pointing out that if this were the case we wouldn't have half of Shakespeare's work (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet...), so we moved on to the idea of getting a culture "right", the details of a ritual or myth or whatever.
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saltine

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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2009, 09:35:23 PM »
Cultures are a tricky topic. It can exploitative to use another culture's "oddities" or differences to sell your books, if that's the hook into the story.

 
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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2009, 10:51:00 PM »
I think it all depends on the purpose of the literature. If it is trying to have the aura of historical accuracy then details matter. This is especially important if the details are central to the theme. I would seriously question a novel about Native religion that got aspects of that religions wrong, even if it is fiction.

However, if a book is pure fiction I see no problems with historical or factual inaccuracy.

My only caveat would be inaccuracies that are simply due to laziness or, worse, a desire to pant an ethnic or cultural group in a poor light. If the detail has no bearing on the overall narrative then it should be accurate. In other words, factual details should only be purposely changed if that change is important to some aspect of the narrative structure.

alexarch

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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2009, 08:05:04 AM »
I care zero percent about historical facts being correct in fiction. I do care about a character or narrator's voice being accurate in a historical setting.

Actually, I probably don't even care about accuracy as much as the author's ability to fool me into believing in the voice's accuracy. I have no idea of Jamie O'Neill's characters spoke in an accurate dialect, but he fooled me into believing they did.

Junior

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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2009, 11:10:05 AM »
Well said, Alex.

On a similar note, I really can't stand an author who over uses words from another language, especially when it's not dialogue. I just don't get it.
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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2009, 11:12:02 AM »
Well said, Alex.

On a similar note, I really can't stand an author who over uses words from another language, especially when it's not dialogue. I just don't get it.

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saltine

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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2009, 05:16:47 PM »
Well said, Alex.

On a similar note, I really can't stand an author who over uses words from another language, especially when it's not dialogue. I just don't get it.

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That was especially well-done in All the Pretty Horses.  The blending of Spanish (and that was actually more a Tex-Mex dialect of Spanish) and English gave the text a marvelous sense of place and time.
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Re: Special Topics in Literature and Books and Things of that Nature
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2009, 05:55:19 PM »
This is a big discussion among readers & writers of historical romance.  Some lean very far toward being as accurate as possible and working in real people of the time etc., others do what the reviewers call "history as wallpaper".  To make a romance story set in another era palatable for the typical modern reader, there are tons of anachronisms even in the more accurate books---the heroine has to be self-reliant and a proto-feminist in terms of assuming that women can do what they want to; there is much less religious thought, attendance or discussion than there was in real life in most eras before 1950 or so; and of course the premarital sex.  And everything is much cleaner, less smelly and less disease ridden than it really would be.  And to ensure that as much as possible, the hero and heroine generally have to be of the highest levels of wealthy aristocracy or at best, the offspring of a fallen aristo who lives a very decent middle class existence and is swept away by a lover who is an aristocrat.

The further back you go, the more ahistorical you have to get to have a hero and heroine that most readers will connect with.  There are some really good and historically more accurate medieval stories but most of them end up in trade paperback as "historical fiction"--the romance novels definitely go the wallpaper route.

I can count the stories I've read that have both hero and heroine who are not nobility on one hand.  I think where there are so many overdone themes, that should be explored a little more by more authors.

Anyway, I can go either way on the accuracy question.  If the author isn't trying to be particularly accurate I'm more inclined to let smaller stuff go but huge anachronisms will still bug me.  If they are trying to be more accurate, I'm going to give them less slack when they mess it up or cut corners.