February 2, 2002

On Histories and Stories

A. S. Byatt's new collection of essays explores the intriguingly intertwined growth of narrative history and historical fiction in contemporary England. Fascinating arguments, rendered tough going by my abysmal ignorance of many works by writers Byatt considers crucial: Graham Swift, Pat Barker, Penelope Fitzgerald.

Some of the most interesting comments touch upon Byatt's unique and wonderful Possession, and so Byatt sent me fleeing from her more difficult arguments to the arms of Christabelle LaMotte, neglected fairy-poet, and the struggles of a crew of modern academics to get to the bottom of her mysterious and tenuous relationships. Grand, brilliant, fun.