The Historical Novel

Sat Aug 6, 2011

Perry Anderson has an article on the historical novel in the most London Review. Right after an impressively keen assessment of the importance of Orlando, Anderson notes:

in Britain hoary sagas of doughty patriots battling against Napoleon poured—and still pour—off the presses, from C. S. Forester through Dennis Wheatley to Patrick O’Brian.

Patrick O’Brian? I hesitate to ask if Anderson has actually read one of O’Brian novels, but one must assume that they operate on a different level than Dennis Wheatley, with respect to cultural chauvinism, craft, and pretty much everything else.

In other news about historical novels (and Orlando), the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (“Century 1969”) arrived. The plot is what you would expect: Aleister Crowley and an astral battle at a Stones concert leads to Mina Harker inventing punk. Jerry Cornelius also makes a cameo.

The pan-fictionalist conceit of the Moore books, along with his decidedly eccentric take on what fictional characters get representation in his particular world, gave me an idea about a pan-fictionalist world in which canonicity and market-value compose two differing levels of fictional existence. It could have interesting tie-ins with the various “how to live in a simulation” arguments I’ve always found fascinating.