Friday, December 10, 2004

Patrick O'Brian, Margaret Drabble

"Patrick O'Brian is one of the pantheon, the nearest thing to an idol as yet produced by the decidedly unstarry genre that is historical sea-fiction" and that is why his unfinished first draft--if it can even be elevated to the level of first draft--and stepson Nikolai Tolstoy's biography, Patrick O'Brian: The Making of a Novelist, matter to his fans. (The Guardian) His 20 Aubrey/Maturin novels sell at least 1000 copies each in the United States each month.

I used to sneer when I saw the shelf of O'Brians at the public library. Little did I know just what treasures were hidden inside until I actually opened Master and Commander back in July.

Long time favorite Margaret Drabble ventures into postmodernism, more often the domain of older sister A.S. Byatt, in her latest novel The Red Queen, which was inspired by the memoirs of an 18th century Korean crown princess.

"I was completely gripped," says the author, recalling the impact of the crown princess' dark tale of an oppressive court racked by murderous conflict between her mentally ill husband and his tyrannical father, the king. "Everybody in Korea knows this story, but nobody in the West does. I thought: Right, this needs to be retold. I'd discovered this very powerful narrative that was asking me to do something with it, but I didn't know what." (Newsday)

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