There was a brief time in my life where I thought I wanted to be a playwright. I was reading Stoppard and Pinter heavily, and I thought they were showing me a way that I hadn’t ever considered and which seemed, back then in 2009, to resonate strongly within me.
Since then, I’ve read a variety of playwrights and plays, and while my desire to write plays has softened, my appreciation and respect for this facet of literature remains intense. I consider plays a pure, distilled, positively constrained part of literature, and I hope to expand my awareness of the art form. I remain woefully ignorant of foreign-language playwrights, and English-language plays, too.
Now, Eliot I like. I have read quite a number of his poems. I am honestly not a poetry man, but I like his work.
But what I do not like is historical fiction.
Why? I don’t know. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t know. If a book was written in 1650 and is set in ‘the present day’ of 1650, then I am happy. But a book written 200 years later that is set then? For some reason I can’t stomach it. I really don’t understand it. Perhaps because I find it an excuse to use an historical time as a metaphor instead of some aspect of the writing itself?
But then I like Gravity’s Rainbow, which is set during World War II and was written in the 1970s. I like War and Peace, which was written seventy years after Napoleon’s intrusion into Russia. So I am a liar. But perhaps it is the distance? I struggled with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. And I struggled with Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.
It’s set in the twelfth century. I understand, of course, that the heart of a human doesn’t really change, just the external trappings, but for the reasons listed above I couldn’t really enjoy it. I couldn’t bring myself to engage with the struggle of Thomas Becket. I’m also not religious, but that shouldn’t matter too strongly.
And so I don’t have much to say about this. I powered through it, because it was short, and because I like Eliot. I admit that I did not give it the attention it deserved, and should perhaps have avoided it altogether, in appreciation of my own limitations. But I did not.
The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read over the years.