f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Masters

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I finished E.L. Doctorow’s The March this weekend. It’s a Civil War novel that weaves itself around Sherman’s March from Atlanta to Savannah and then up through the Carolinas. The novel tries a number of complicated narrative and stylistic feats, some of which have more success than others. But the place where Doctorow is infinitely confident is weaving history and fiction together. It’s seamless, rarely bogging down in factual details at the expense of story but rarely seeming thin or unresearched. It’s a vibrant world that is both history and fiction at once. (Remember this analysis of historical fiction?)

You can hundreds to go to a writing conference or thousands for a writing degree, but I’m not sure either of them offer the value that sitting down with E.L. Doctorow’s novels could to an aspiring historical fiction novelist.

So today I want to begin a conversation about the Masters. Who are the writers—working today or dead but relevant—whose books could become tutorials in themselves? Teaching us about particular genres or forms or styles. Doctorow, for instance, is a good nominee in the Historical category.

Twain’s always been held up for his use of dialect.

Could you do better than Poe, King, Lovecraft, and Straub for horror?

We could go on and on. (In fact I welcome you to do so in the comments or at the discussion board.) But besides just listing them out, we need to take another critical step—“critical” being the operative word. Yes, again we need to try to figure out the why? that makes these works and writers so successful in the facet we’re studying. We need to read and reread the books until we see the watchworks inside. So I think we’ll take a small stab at doing this tomorrow or Thursday. Just a small one.

And finally, toward the end of the week, I’d like to see who we’d look at as the master’s of Christian fiction—however broad you’d like to take that term.