Friday, August 27, 2004

open histories

I've stolen the book that Nikki was reading, The Double Life of Doctor Lopez: Spies, Shakespeare and the Plot to Poison Elizabeth I by Dominic Green.

I am thoroughly mesmerized by it - it seems almost custom-written for me - with Elizabethan history and court intrigues (against Philip II of Spain and Don Antonio, the exiled Portuguese king) interspersed with a scholarly analysis of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.

This is one of the genres that I absolutely love (and Nikki, of course, knew it, bless her heart): books that are firmly grounded in history and tell stories about people and circumstances that most fiction glosses over. I like the details, the slavish devotion to the minutiae of the milleau, and the overwhelming sense of history. I enjoy reading non-fiction of this mode, books like Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History, Big Chief Elizabeth : The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America and Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened the East all by Giles Milton or The Great Wave : Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan by Christopher Benfey.

Eventually, I'd like to write something like this. A novel that balances the act of reportage with creative and literary sensibilities. I just need to channel Ambeth Ocampo and I'll be on my way.

But even if I never do, texts like this have proven time and again the value of research, even if just for the sake of maintaining a high level of verisimilitude in one's writing. God is in the details, after all.

Along a similar vein, here are a few of the online resources I use for the kind of stories I like to tell:

The Internet Sacred Text Archive - everything from texts relating to the philosophy of Thelema, many of them written by the occultist Aleister Crowley, to the key texts of Confucianism, to The Hymns of Orpheus translated by Thomas Taylor. And the Bible too.

Encyclopedia Mythica - entries on folklore, mythology and legends

The Skeptic's Dictionary - A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions (and how to think critically about them)

The Language Construction Kit - go and create your own language

Vivisimo - my preferred clustering search engine (because sometimes Google is just too messy)


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