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On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  106 ratings  ·  11 reviews
As writers of English from Australia to India to Sri Lanka command our attention, Salman Rushdie can state confidently that English fiction was moribund until the Empire wrote back, and few, even among the British, demur. A. S. Byatt does, and her case is persuasive. In a series of essays on the complicated relations between reading, writing, and remembering, the gifted no ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 30th 2002 by Harvard University Press (first published 2000)
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  106 ratings  ·  11 reviews


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Ginny
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, some bits of this book were absolutely fascinating, some bits intriguing, and quite a few almost incomprehensible. Ms. Byatt uses many, many novels to illustrate her analysis, resulting in quite a few additions to my t0-read list. I am a devoted fan of Anthony Trollope, and have given some thought to his narrators. I really liked this quote, referring to the 19th century narrator:
"...--this kind of fictive narrator can creep closer to the feelings and the inner life of characters--as w
...more
Chris
The essays in this book center around the writing of historical fiction as well as the use of stories. Byatt gives insightful comments abouts the popularity of the genre as well as analysis of some of the writers in the genre. She focuses on Penelope Fitzgerald, Bowen, Swift, Blixen, and Pratchett among others.

Byatt also includes remarks about her own works - Possession, Angels and Insects, and the Fredericka novels. After reading this book, I think I finally understand the ending of Still Life
...more
Tom
Oct 29, 2011 is currently reading it
I've never read B's fiction, but since I'm a fan of historical novels, this book of critcism looked quite interesting. A series of linked essays on resurgence of historical fiction, focusing mostly on Brit Lit, in latter 20th c. So far, quite enlightening. B. appears to have read everything by her peers and by previous generation of Brit novelists. She's a rigorous and percpetive commentator, capable of imparting enthusiasm for work of others. I find myelf keeping a growing "to read" list of boo ...more
Conrad
Mar 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I find Byatt a lot more useful for her nonfiction than her fiction. I'm paraphrasing, but in this book, for example, she describes radicalism as a belief that the truth is always knowable but hidden to most. She's full of revealing aphorisms like that, but in her fiction she seems mostly to talk around them.
Jana
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Some wonderful hours of A. S. Byatt telling me about her favourite books, her thoughts about narrative, and the representation of history, while the shelves on the walls grow and start humming.
Jerry
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-writing
I have never taught ‘creative writing’. I think I see teaching good reading as the best way of encouraging, and making possible, good writing.


Byatt writes about the reading, writing, and relevance of historical novels, which, she writes, are “frowned on, and disapproved of, both by academic critics and by reviewers.” They are dismissed as “escapist” or “pastoral” and not “serious depictions of contemporary life”. Byatt regrets the focus that modern academics put on ensuring that all canons are f
...more
l.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
"I think the stories are studies of the danger of thinking with images that think with images themselves and I do think that in some curious way they find, not impose."

Someone once asked me if I've ever been in the presence of someone so intelligent that they've made me shrivel up with brain fear. (Yes - a few profs tbh) I often feel like that when reading Byatt's novels and her discussion of her stories: The Conjugal Angel and Morpho Eugenia sealed the deal.

That said, I didn't like the first
...more
Davy
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For the longest time, I couldn't remember what Byatt book I had read in my Introduction to Literary Theory course. One night, though, I'm working the register at Borders when who comes walking up to the counter but Dr. So-and-so, the professor who taught that class! I had to wrack my brain to recall his name, but when I did, we had a pleasant and lively half-hour conversation. We spoke of that class, then and now, the morning of September 11 (our class began right after the news got out), WG Seb ...more
Jessica
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I very much liked this book. I love Byatt's mind, and it was wonderful to see it through her nonfiction thought. Her interests in literature are wide ranging and draw from many national literatures. Her observations are keen, and - which I appreciated most of all - focused on what is really in the text, as opposed to what one might like to be there. She is a true believer I stories, and well-crafted ones at that. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Amanda
Oct 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, non-fiction
Most of this went right over my head. But the essays did reveal insights into Byatt's books. The essays Old Tales, New Forms; and Ice, Snow, Glass made sense in the light of the 2 novels of hers I have read. And I think it will help in further reading of her books, and probably in the reading of other similar authors.
Ash Crowe
Jun 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
The book is at its best when Byatt i discussing her own books in the context of common themes of British authors.
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more
“Good writing is always new.” 6 likes
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