Tuesday, April 29, 2008

(The) truth and (its) consequences

Ah....the solution to my find-a-publisher problem is becoming so clear to me now. It's so simple: make shit up! (Thanks to The Wife for the link)

The publication of a biography of Louis XIV has now been held up because one of its primary sources was not exactly...er,...primary.

To be fair, of course, in writing non-fiction there is always the danger of making factual mistakes (a recurring nightmare here), and the author in question seems to have been merely(!) sloppy rather than devious.

Still, I would agree with at least the general drift of this:
"Thirty years ago this never would have happened. Then, people who wrote biographies were trained in how to carry out archival research. The same cannot be said of Veronica Buckley or many others like her," said Jerry Brotton, professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London. "There is a whole industry now around historical biographies. Publishers know that they sell, but at the same time they will knock back book proposals unless an author promises something really racy."

Brotton was a lone voice of dissent on Buckley's first book, which he criticised in the New Statesman for "anachronistic, novelistic speculation in place of genuine historical detail" and relying on "outdated and unreliable historical sources".

"I've been reviewing these sort of books endlessly for a few years now, and they're getting worse," he commented. "One the other day was filled with "might haves" and "could haves"; by the time you would get to the end of a chapter all of a sudden these coulds and mights had been turned into facts."

While we're on the topic of facts -- and before I get back to trying to flog my humble little manuscript (a cross, of sorts, between biography and cultural history, with lots of old-school endnotes and the like) -- let us enjoy a little interlude on black-cab epistemology:

(Stewart Lee, via Geoff)

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