News Events Get Novelized

A sobering recent scene in Ukraine. (AFP via Getty Images.)

With Ukraine in the news, we know that the Russian invasion is appalling, that the carnage is dismaying, and that Ukrainian resistance is inspiring. We also know that many nonfiction books will eventually be written about the Putin-ordered attack — and that some future novels will incorporate the situation into their story lines.

It’s an interesting experience seeing major 21st-century events referenced in novels months or years after we followed those events in real time via the Internet, social media, TV, newspapers, and so on. We’re curious how novelists will depict things after time has passed, and how they will humanize the events via the characters they create. Also, our own memories will be stirred.

I recently finished Liane Moriarty’s compelling 2021 novel Apples Never Fall, which expertly mixes family dynamics with a mysterious disappearance. Near the end of the book, in the year 2020, the Australian characters experience the onset of COVID in their country. It’s hardly the main element of Apples Never Fall, but Moriarty makes it work. The very first novel I’ve read that includes the still-ongoing pandemic.

One part of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah focuses on when Democratic candidate Barack Obama becomes America’s first Black president in 2008. We interestingly see this through the eyes of an “outsider” protagonist: Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman living in the U.S. There is pride and hope felt by her and others, even as Obama would eventually disappoint some of them due to the combination of his not-as-liberal-as-expected politics and the vicious obstruction from right-wing Republicans.

Among the novels referencing 9/11 is Pete Hamill’s Forever (2003) — about an Irishman who arrives in New York City in 1740 and is still around when planes smash into the World Trade Center in 2001. (Yes, Cormac O’Connor is rather long-lived.) Readers get a fascinating perspective from a character who has obviously “seen it all” in Manhattan.

Then there’s The Kite Runner (also 2003), Khaled Hosseini’s novel that spans several decades in the late 20th century and early 2000s, with scenes in Afghanistan depicting the brutality of the Taliban via one man in particular. Afghanistan of course has a 9/11 relevance given that the U.S. sent troops into that country despite 15 of the 19 plane hijackers being Saudis (and none Afghans).

Barbara Kingsolver’s 2012 novel Flight Behavior doesn’t focus on one 21st-century event per se but rather on sort of an ongoing event: worsening climate change. The devastating effects of that are seen through the eyes of characters Dellarobia Turnbow (a young Tennessean) and Ovid Byron (a visiting scientist).

The 21st century is also known for an ongoing development of a positive nature: the rapidly growing acceptance, in many places, of same-gender partnerships and marriage — much of that codified in various pieces of legislation. So, for instance, when we meet the couple Anna Phipps and Dr. Kim Sullivan in J.K. Rowling’s 2020 novel Troubled Blood, the very normality of their relationship is a given. We see Anna as a woman seeking answers about her mother’s long-ago murder; her sexual orientation is irrelevant.

Any novels you’d like to mention that incorporate real-life events of the 21st century? You can also go pre-2000 if you’d like, but I avoided that in my blog post to keep it fairly short. 🙂

Speaking of Ukraine and Russia, writer Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky was born in Kiev (aka Kyiv) in 1887 and died in Moscow in 1950. I’m currently reading a story collection of his titled Memories of the Future, and it’s compelling and weird and fantastical — a tiny room expanding, the Eiffel Tower tromping through Paris, characters becoming detached from novels, a beggar offering deep philosophical nuggets in return for small change, etc. Krzhizhanovsky’s wonderfully crafted fiction was sadly not published until decades after he died due to economic problems and Soviet censorship; his writing at times obliquely criticized the Soviet state under Stalin — or at least didn’t glorify it. Putin would not have liked Krzhizhanovsky, either.

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for every Thursday. The latest piece — about local reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the end of local mask mandates, and more — is here.

150 thoughts on “News Events Get Novelized

  1. Pingback: News Events Get Novelized — Dave Astor on Literature – The Naughton Weekly

  2. Dave it is gut wrenching to hear the daily destruction by Putin of Ukraine , there is no humanity, no stopping .
    Vladimir Putin is a monsterous criminal, hiding inside his four walls and killing innocent civilians and as we see there is no end to this sight. I can not compare with any animals that would be an insult.

    A criminal close to 70 with a plastic face isolated in his own cocoon. I Understand he has an enormous amount of wealth tucked away somewhere.

    Donald Trump is in love with Putin. All one has to do is read the book ( by Mary Trump) on how Trump evolved to be the loser he is today.

    President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, what a brave soldier He is. Hoping for his safety, watching the daily event ih horror.,
    When this will stop,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bebe. All great points, and all well said.

      Putin is indeed awful — causing so much horrific death and destruction. And it’s pathetic that Trump was and is a big fan of his. I imagine Putin began having some regrets about invading Ukraine after he wasn’t able to achieve a quick victory, and after the worldwide sanctions imposed on Russia, but he feels he would “lose face” if he pulled out. So the terrible situation continues. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Dave, as I was totally off topic.

        Couple of decades ago when in KS I worked with some from Ukraine, they came , don’t recall if during Bush or Ragan, came with citizenship.
        As I knew 5-6 of them, great folks , some with wives, one lady single. Then my boss moved to Vandy, and by total coincidence My Husband moved there too.
        So I continued working with one gentleman and the folks from Ukraine moved too.
        So a couple of weeks ago we contacted one, they are okay but worried sick for the relatives they left behind.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Here’s an example of the reverse, or, when novels get eventized:
    Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” became inspiration for self-description by Confederate troops in the Army of Northern Virginia, who referred, wittily, to themselves as Lees’ Miserables.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, jhNY!

      This is not quite the same, by Edward Bellamy’s great novel “Looking Backward” inspired various “Bellamy Clubs” aimed at putting the book’s utopian ideas into practice.


  4. I retain interest in humanity’s dreams and concepts and doings up till around the 1960’s , when we could still imagine ourselves attractively.

    I have trouble with most everything past that time, since nowadaze I think, if locusts had a band of specialized entertainers that accompanied the feeding frenzy on fiddle as the swarm devoured all, it would be hard for me to make grand distinctions between ourselves and those clouds of hungry bugs. Humanity’s greatest achievement, dwarfing art and science and philosophies of every stripe, is the relentless destruction of the natural world, including ourselves.

    Such news events as got novelized since, I confess I’m not likely to read or have read, given my sentiments above, unless they were included in a detective novel or a Reacher book.

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    • Thank you for the comment, jhNY. Yes, it has been a VERY depressing bunch of decades since the mid-20th century. Yet the previous decades and centuries — while they had their good and hopeful moments — were often nothing to write home about, either. “Legalized” slavery, women not being allowed to vote, native peoples treated abominably in various places, medical advances that hadn’t happened yet, etc., etc.

      A Jack Reacher novel is always worth reading. 🙂


      • I meant to be referring to something grander in scale re humanity: I have concluded that whatever we imagine we have been doing, living out and memorializing the destiny of man the reasoning animal, we’ve most of all been industrious geniuses at destroying the natural world– not almost, but literally destroying it. At this point we can’t get back what we’ve destroyed, or even save most of what remains. Nothing humanity has done, or will do, could matter more.

        Therefore, I read the works and admire the art of generations for whom this terrible achievement of humanity was not yet upon them, or even known to be coming, a comparative aeon of innocence.

        Our more recent fictions and musings and handiworks, I find difficult to enjoy or endure in the shadow of the collapse of nature.

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        • Ah, I see what you’re saying, jhNY. Environmental degradation has always been around to some degree, but it has reached critical mass in recent decades — to the point where climate change is wreaking havoc and may ultimately destroy the Earth. Yet many leaders and their citizens are doing little or nothing about it even though they know what’s probably coming if this lack of action/not enough action continues. Depressing indeed. 😦


          • As a species, I don’t believe we have the capacity to keep ourselves from that looming destruction, though we certainly have among us individuals who know better, have cautioned us, have not so long ago proposed possible fixes, etc., etc., etc., but here we are, burning the world down anyway.

            Before WWI, the working people in both France and England, knowing their class would pay the heaviest price for war, held general strikes against the coming war in their respective nations, and some millions participated. They were right. Their leaders were murderously wrong. And yet, the war then on the horizon came to take up the entire sky and the mud blow. Millions upon millions perished, but not because they could not see war coming, or because they did not foresee its terrible costs.

            We’re built the way we are and do the things we do. Ain’t no stopping us now.

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  5. Hi Dave, when I read this last night, my initial reaction was that I haven’t read any books about 21st century change. I decided to sleep on it and I realised overnight that I have read several books about the pandemic. A number of people, especially the British who love to record history by way of journals and poems, have published books about their experiences during the lockdowns. I read them with great interest because the first world experience was so different from the third world experience. I actually recorded some of my observations about the pandemic and its impact on South Africans in my most recent poetry book and I did a series of 5 pandemic cakes to memorialise my thoughts in art. Other than this, I haven’t read much about 21st century change but I am slowly writing a novel about climate change and the fourth industrial revolution. One of my recent short stories, which will be published in an anthology later this year, is about climate change and the negative impact it is having on Gen Z. There is a high incidence of depression and suicide among despairing youngsters which is a great tragedy. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

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    • I came back to say that the more I think about this, the more I realise that I write a lot about modern events that trouble me. These thoughts usually take the form of poetry and my recent poems about the African animals illustrate this point. I have written about corruption in South Africa and the horror of the poverty here too. It is a way of releasing the emotion for me and also, hopefully, bringing some attention to these matters.

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      • Thank you, Robbie!

        Were the several books about the pandemic you read all nonfiction? Perhaps there are more of them out there than fiction ones, at least at this point. Of course, things like poems can be a very definite mix of fiction and nonfiction. You’ve certainly done varied pandemic-related creations — and the idea of pandemic cakes is so interesting!

        Great that you also do topical poetry. And good luck with your novel about climate change and the fourth industrial revolution!

        Totally understandable why there is despair among many young people. Climate change, the COVID restrictions of the past couple years, rampant economic inequality, unemployment, jobs without benefits, hard to afford housing, their disgust with lying and corrupt politicians, racism, sexism, homophobia… 😦

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        • HI Dave, I really do feel bad for young people. My oldest copes well, he is like me and it takes a great deal to bring me down. I can usually find the silver lining in life. My youngest was very ill last year and spent time in ICU. He has been medicated for depression and is under a therapist. The books I read were mainly non-fiction but a few included stories revolving around the pandemic.

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          • Very sorry about what your youngest has gone through, Robbie. Yes, some younger people (including your older son) can cope well, but it is indeed a tough time for almost every younger person today. 😦

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  6. Over the course of my reading fiction books these past two years, I have come to the conclusion that is is very difficult to write about something that is currently happening. The research is incomplete and the story isn’t over yet. Non-fiction, on the other hand, moves with the moment based on relaying information or biographical thoughts rather than telling a story. For example Jackie Brown’s “Nineteen Tales of COVID-19: A Collection of Fiction and Non-Fiction from the First Days of the Pandemic.” I have not placed it on my overwhelmingly large stack of books for 2022.

    I read a very interesting article by Jean Menzies on 33 of the best historical fiction books of all times. She writes: “The best historical fiction allows us to immerse ourselves in eras long past.“

    Again, you have given me something to think about in the days ahead. Here is a thought – when we are experiencing the event, do we want to read about it? Or is it easier to go deep into history and feel the experiences – tragedies and celebrations – from another time? Do we write our thoughts about events as they occur to aid our recollections in the years ahead. I remember the excitement of the 1960s and early 70’s through my eyes of 2022. As usual, I digress.

    Thank you for a great conversation!

    “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston S. Churchill

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Rebecca!

      An excellent point that writing (or reading) fiction about current or recent events can be fraught. Actually, I didn’t expect current/recent events to come up in some of the novels I mentioned; for instance, I had no idea that “Apples Never Fall” would include COVID or that “Forever” would include 9/11.

      Reading about traumatic current/recent events in novels has the potential for overkill; it can be easier to read fiction that focuses on longer-ago events.

      I LOVE that Winston Churchill quote. He was SO witty.

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    • Hi Rebecca, a notable quote. What you have said about it being difficult to write about current events while they are still unfolding is very true. I started writing a dystopian novel about climate change and the fourth industrial revolution in 2019. I was half way through when the pandemic hit. I thought I couldn’t have a novel set 10 – 15 years in the future that ignored the pandemic so I made changes to incorporate the impact of the pandemic. But I don’t know if the pandemic is going to result in permanent changes to our society yet. So I can invent a second pandemic that results in definite changes to our society or I can assume everything will revert back to the old way. I had assumed a hybrid model but it seems more likely that everything will revert back to how it was before, given the current desperate push to get people back into offices and to resume all the consumption of junk food and coffee. It creates jobs for people and those are very necessary.

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      • Great thoughts, Robbie. Going back in time, we can see the outcomes and results of certain events, but when we are writing about the present, we still don’t know the outcomes and ramifications. I especially appreciated the way you articulated the choices writers face when writing in the “now.”

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    • In my life of 70 years, during such few events as would qualify, I have put my head down and and attempted to endure for the duration, without much thought beyond getting through– and after, I have been happy enough to have lived past them, and feeling past them, never looked around for historical accounts, and in my own mind, seldom looked back to recount them or my small part in them.

      There are those among us who would write things in a journal whenever they could, and the world is more informed, I’m sure, for their efforts. One of my regrets as a reader is Stendhal’s journal of Napoleon’s Russian campaign– he was attached to the general staff. His account of those hectic and fraught days would have been invaluable to future historians, but in the retreat from Moscow the baggage train was abandoned, and the journal was lost for all time.

      Stendhal, so far as I am aware, never later attempted to write about that period of his life, save for his descriptions, in “The Charterhouse of Parma”, of Fabrizio’s doings in the vicinity of Waterloo, in which by means of a few illuminating details, he revealed himself as one experienced under fire– but of course, Stendhal was not present at the Battle of Waterloo.

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    • Hi Rebecca, I am actually old enough to remember the 1960s and early 70s and I remember them as a turbulent and divisive time similar to the past six years of the Trump and Biden eras, this now somewhat distant era was not exactly the “good old days”.

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  7. So glad you enjoyed Apples Never Fall! Such a good book – it made my top ten last year. Have you read anything by Richard Powers? He’s pretty good at incorporating modern-day news stories especially in relation to climate change. I haven’t read his new book yet but “the Overstory” was fantastic. I’m reading a book now (“My Dark Vanessa”) that referenced the Columbine shooting and I remember how horrific that was to watch – especially as a high school student myself at the time. I was so shattered about it that I wrote a poem about it and sent it to Bill Clinton – and he actually RESPONDED PERSONALLY! So apparently I wasn’t the only one shook up. And to think how school shootings have become so tragically common place since then! 😦

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, M.B.!

      “Apples Never Fall” is indeed terrific; I’m sure it will make my top ten for 2022.

      I have not read Richard Powers; sounds like I should! Climate change is such an important issue. I’m grateful when novels address it.

      Gun massacres — definitely an enormous and all-too-frequent 21st-century occurrence. It’s horrifying to think that Columbine was dozens of U.S. massacres ago. Wow — you writing a poem about Columbine and getting a personal response from Bill Clinton! THAT is a keepsake.

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  8. So, I’m backwards. I can’t get The Stand (Stephen King 1978) out of my head. Written in the 20th century, the instigating event wouldn’t happen, until the 21st century, the pandemic.
    I see it’s now streaming as a movie on TV. I’m sure that is because of the pandemic.

    As your blog is about fiction, I won’t mention Red Notice by Bill Browder. Reads like fiction, unfortunately, not!
    🤔🤭 Oops.

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    • Thank you, Resa! Some novels are indeed rather prescient about events — reflecting them in advance. (Jules Verne was of course pretty good at looking ahead, too, with inventions and such.)

      BTW, I finished Joy Fielding’s “Still Life” a few days ago after you recommended it. Wow — compelling, intense, and SO suspenseful.

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      • Yes, Jules Verne. I’ve read some of his books, when I was young. I have to put George Orwell in this category as well.

        Oh boy! I’m so thrilled you liked “Still Life”!
        Most of her books are in this genre. “Grand Avenue” is the departure, and my fave. NYT best seller.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I read Joyce Carol Oates “Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque” a few years back, and overall, found it compelling and repulsive at turns, but well done throughout. One story stuck in my head ever since, and seems a description of events to come, though if they do, Oates’ foresight will be the least of our worries: “Thanksgiving”, the story of a rural father and son who go into town for food, of which there isn’t much and much of that spoiling or spoiled, in the aftermath of events that are never explained but have changed everything.

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    • The Resa, when I read The Stand for the first time when I was about 11, it had a huge impact on me. I have re-read it twice over the years because it’s message is so powerful. I was fascinated by the start and progress of the pandemic rather than the fight against evil that dominates the ending, although the use of a nuclear weapon that was pretty much left lying around is thought provoking. Sometimes it almost seems as if certain authors have the gift of foresight and make a bit of a predication. John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes about the world being submerged by water is a bit chilling given the fast rate at which the ice caps are melting at the moment. Of course, the first academic paper about the negative effect of carbon emissions was published in the late 1800s.

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      • This is one interesting comment!
        These are all what Dave referred to as prescient books.
        The Kraken Wakes sounds scary. I had a true nightmare about water 20 years ago.
        It’s still vivid. It begins with our government telling us that the Great lakes were finally completely pollution free. Tests were done by all types of peoples and organizations, and they were clean.
        Then one day I’m looking out the window at the lake, and it starts bubbling. All the great lakes began to boil, and spill over onto the cities and boiling the people.
        Turns out we’d been lied to all along. Corporations and governments had found new chemical pollutants, that could not be detected.
        Anyway, the dream is epic. People fleeing, mayhem, insanity, and I fled with them. Would be a 4 hour movie.
        End of the epic, I found myself in Erehwon, which as we all know is Nowhere backwards.
        Late 1800’s, interesting. Is that when they were having black rain from coal propelled industry?

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        • HI Resa, that is a most interesting dream. Stephen King clearly has a big distrust of the American government as he never has a good word to say about government in his books. Firestarter was the worst one in that regard and painted a very negative picture of the CIA. Distrust of media and governments is at an all time high in the world. If you are interested, there is a report produced by Edelman called the Trust Barometer that discusses this in detail. It is fascinating and disturbing: DAve might find this interesting too.

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            • William Blake coined the phrase “dark satanic mills” in 1804. And John Ruskin had something to say about coal pollution in his introduction to “Queen of the Air”:

              “This first day of May, 1869, I am writing where my work was begun thirty-five years ago, within sight of the snows of the higher Alps. In that half of the permitted life of man, I have seen strange evil brought upon every scene that I best loved, or tried to make beloved by others. The light which once flushed those pale summits with its rose at dawn, and purple at sunset, is now umbered and faint; the air which once inlaid the clefts of all their golden crags with azure is now defiled with languid coils of smoke, belched from worse than volcanic fires; their very glacier waves are ebbing, and their snows fading, as if hell had breathed on them; the waters that once sank at their feet into crystalline rest are now dimmed and foul, from deep to deep, and shore to shore. These are no careless words—they are accurately, horribly, true. I know what the Swiss lakes were; no pool of Alpine fountain at its source was clearer. This morning, on the Lake of Geneva, at half a mile from the beach, I could scarcely see my oar-blade a fathom deep.”

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          • Great observation about Stephen King, Robbie.

            I took a look at your link, and distrust in government and media is indeed rampant — and deserved. Most corporations don’t deserve trust, either, in my opinion.


  9. Part 8 of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” takes place amidst the background of Russian volunteers helping the Serbs fight against the Ottoman Empire in 1876. Vronsky was one of the volunteers while some of the other characters either supported or criticized the war effort. Tolstoy used an actual event that was occurring while his novel was published in installments and incorporated it into the plot.

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        • Very true about Dickens, Robbie! His work was topical in many ways. Serialization also made things flexible — for instance, when “Martin Chuzzlewit” wasn’t selling as well as his previous novels, he changed the plot mid-serialization to send Martin to the United States.

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        • In the 19th century, many novels first came to light this way. I recall seeing a JF Cooper book, possibly “The Navigator”, spread across a year or so of a quarterly American literary magazine that had been collected into a book.

          I have a first edition of Dicken’s “Nicholas Nicholby”, another book sold in installments, which retains, if I remember correctly,a few signs of its origin in installments.

          Then there’s the famous story (possibly apocryphal) of Americans crowding the dock in New York to learn, from those who had read the installments in the hold, whether “The Old Curiosity Shop”‘s Little Nell had died.

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          • Yes, jhNY, serialization was big back then!

            I’ve heard that story about “The Old Curiosity Shop,” too. I think it’s true.

            Wow — wonderful that you have a Dickens first edition!!!


            • The streets of the Upper West Side every so often disgorge a rarity!

              I’ve been so holed up over the COVID Era that I haven’t been out looking over the card tables of the booksellers here even half so often as before– that, and the notion I need fewer books rather than more, a passing notion sometimes, I admit– has kept me from my customary rounds.

              If I only I read as quickly as I acquire…

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          • Thank you for adding your thoughts, I didn’t know JF Cooper also published in installments but I do know this was a popular way to publish at the time. Enid Blyton published her children’s stories as a weekly series too. I didn’t know that story about the dock in New York either. That is an interesting piece of information and I shall look it up.

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  10. Like Shehanne, I’m totally unable to think of any books about 21st century events, but then that probably reflects a) not reading anything after about 1950 (I do exaggerate a little) and b) trying to put as much distance between me and whatever horror is being waged Out There. I can’t even bring myself to read the Simon Armitage poem, ‘Out of the Blue’, about 9/11. It’s interesting though you mention about Covid as, and forgive me if I’m going over old ground here, there are very books that I’ve read, written in the 1920s, that refer to the ‘flu epidemic that swept around the world. Of course they will be out there but nothing I’m familiar with. However, I’m all for these events being recorded in literature and poetry (and the arts in general) as they provide a useful and invaluable social history.

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    • Thank you, Sarah!

      I hear you — modern novels can sometimes be TOO immediate, making readers wallow in recent events and angst we’re already experiencing via the news or just living life. I used to read mostly older literature, and still do to some extent, but I had read so many older novels at a certain point that there were fewer left that I wanted to read and thus I often turned to more recent stuff which of course there’s always new examples of.

      Yes, there didn’t seem to be a huge number of 1920s novels referencing the flu pandemic. Maybe the combination of that pandemic and World War I was too traumatic to think about a lot.

      But, yes, I agree that reflecting on events in the arts is a good thing — as long as there are also plenty of novels, poems, etc., that DON’T reflect on those events. 🙂

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      • Yes, you can forgive people for not wanting to dwell on events in the first part of the 20th Century – not that things improved a great deal, although by comparison there’s a wealth of WWII novels and films out there. How curious how things changed over the relatively short period of about 25 years.
        Yes, I think you’re right that there should be balance and it’s nice to escape real world events, although it seems such a luxury to be able to do so at times. However, as long as we’re still able to read whatever we choose to then it means there’s still some sanity out there in the world!

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        • We definitely need a balance for our sanity — whether it be periodically reading an escapist novel or doing other things for pure enjoyment. Humans can be very good at multi-tasking; we can still care about and keep up with sobering events.

          And a great, depressing point that some citizens of some towns and some countries can’t read what they choose. 😦

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    • I found one and read it not long ago, titled “The Return” by Walter de la Mare, published 1922. Its main character is attempting to recover from a wasting bout of influenza. This novella was written earlier than the Spanish Flu epidemic, but was revised, and perhaps then the bout of flu was added to what is an atmospheric and insinuating ghost tale of possession– or hallucination brought on by fatigue and the effects of lingering illness.

      “The Return” promises more than it delivers, and although some of the descriptions of nature in it are exquisite, there are a few unresolved plot points that subtract more than little from readerly satisfaction. But it qualifies as one of the few flu-centric fictions from the period.

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      • How interesting! And how very prescient!! I’m sure there will have been more of an interest in his work of recent.
        It’s funny because, as a child, I remember reading his poetry and always associated him with Edward Lear for some reason and, because of this imagined association (perhaps I read a compendium of poetry?), always thought him to be thoroughly Victorian.

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  11. Hi Dave, I currently have on my library pile The Fall by Sarah Moss which is a ‘pandemic novel’. I also enjoyed Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat which is inspired by the pandemic but is about a different version of one. Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet also springs to mind. She wrote the first, Autumn, alongside the UK’s hideous Brexit developments. The final, Summer, incorporates pandemic-related experiences. The four books are a fascinating experiment in ‘real-time publishing’. John Lanchester’s The Wall is described as a ‘post-Brexit novel’. On a different note, Douglas Stuart’s Booker prize winning and excellent Shuggie Bain is a 21stC look at the reality of being gay and living in Glasgow in the 1970s onwards, so maybe perhaps doesn’t count for this discussion. But it still feels very relevant so I’m citing it anyway!!

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  12. Toni Morrison wrote a wonderful poem re: 9/11 called “The Dead Of September 11” and Ishiguro’s books offer sharp insight into post-war America as well the dangers of governments run by dictators. Nice post Dave. Susi

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  13. I very much liked reading the “Kite Runner” or the story about friendship and forgiveness of two boys, one of the Hazari and the other of the pashtun ethnic groups. Now, due to this horrible war in the Ukraine I decided to read “The Queen of Spades” by Alexander Pushin, who had been exiled from Moscow and deported to Odessa, where he had to work for the city administration. You are certainly right, Dave, that there will be written books about what is happening now or about Putin and maybe also about the time before.

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    • Thank you, Martina! “The Kite Runner” is indeed an excellent and memorable book — especially for a debut novel written by someone who was a physician at the time. It definitely contained a lot about friendship, forgiveness, ethnic differences, class differences, and more.

      Reading Pushkin sounds like a very good and relevant idea during this time!

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    • Hi Martina, we are all praying very hard that there won’t be to much to write about. Although as things currently stand, I am failing to see an easy resolution to this conflict. I realised yesterday that as a British citizen living in South Africa I cannot work on any transaction that involves a Russian client or I am breaking international law. It’s a little scary when you think of it that way from a personal perspective.

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  14. I read that Theodore Dreiser’s novel “An American Tragedy” (which I have never read) was based closely on an actual murder case in Upstate New York in 1906. He changed the names of the personalities involved in that case.

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    • Thank you, Tony.

      I’ve read “An American Tragedy,” and it’s an excellent novel by an excellent author. (Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” is also quite compelling.) There have definitely been a number of novels that have somewhat fictionalized murders and murderers. Another example would be Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace.”

      The two changes you requested were made.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I have read most of Book One in “An American Tragedy” on the web, it seems to be set in an era later than 1906 because automobiles were rather common but the exact era is unclear since there are no references to historical events such as World War I or Prohibition. The novel was first published in 1925.

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    • I am reading Part 3 of “An American Tragedy” , this novel is overly long with too many minor characters, Dreiser’s writing lacked literary style even though it is fairly easy to read due to the fact that he tended not to use too many unusual words or long sentences. On the positive side the social observation is keen and there are two believable three dimensional characters in Clyde Griffiths and Roberta Alden, I find that the kind, affectionate, but flawed Roberta is the more sympathetic of the two characters.

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      • Excellent analysis of the novel, Tony! Yes, Theodore Dreiser wasn’t the greatest of stylists but was still an impressive author for the reasons you mentioned — some of his characters, his social consciousness, etc.


    • Thank you, Bill! Very true! And amid the mostly negative things happening to the Joad family, a small section of the novel contained positive references to what President Roosevelt was trying to do address the economic devastation caused by the Dust Bowl situation in particular and The Great Depression in general.

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    • Very happy to have made the introduction! I look forward to reading what you’re reading– that’s a title I haven’t found in the neighborhood bookshop, but maybe it will be on my next visit.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you, jhNY! Glad you did! “Memories of the Future” was the only Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky work my local library had when I visited this past week, so I grabbed it. Sorry they didn’t have any of the titles you mentioned, but I suppose I was lucky the library had anything by SK.

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