Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bravo for Bibliographies

One popular link/topic on litblogs this week seems to be Tuesday's New York Times article on what's described as a new trend in fiction: "Traditionally confined to works of nonfiction, the bibliography has lately been creeping into novels, rankling critics who call it a pretentious extension of the acknowledgments page, which began appearing more than a decade ago and was roundly derided as the tacky literary equivalent of the Oscar speech."

The article reveals some of the reasons why some "purists" aren't terribly fond of these bibliographies, and why some writers are.

As for me, as a writer and a reader, I'm all for them, especially in historical fiction. Here's why.

I was halfway through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun when I ran across the Times article. But I'd already skipped ahead to the end--not to see "what happened" on the novel's last page, but to see if there was, in fact, a bibliography or author's note on sources appended.

Why? Because I'm not (at all) familiar with the time or place in which Adichie's novel takes place. I was becoming curious. I wondered if there were particular writers/books that had influenced Adichie in crafting the novel and where I might turn to learn more.

True, I'm also something of a documentation nut, and a professionally trained historian. But one of the reasons I love fiction--including historical fiction--is because it does more than "simply" entertain me. The best fiction also makes me think, and question, and learn. And including an author's note or list of books/sources extends that learning experience beyond "THE END."

So if this is a new literary "fad" of some sort, here's hoping it lasts a long time.


Alanna said...

Hmm, interesting. I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis, as far as whether a bibliography is appropriate. I see nothing wrong with acknowledgments though - naturally after completing a long work, there will be many supporters for the author to thank. It's gracious, not tacky.

Erika D. said...

Thanks for your comment, Alanna. Yes, looking at it on a case-by-case basis makes sense.

Leah Miranda Hughes said...

(could this trend be a bit of a nudge to the memiors taken to a new level of poetic license? Is that crazy poet logic, E?)

Erika D. said...

Well, I think you may be on to something. The Times article says as much.