The Historical Novel: A Celebration of the Achievements of Herman Wouk has just been published by the Library of Congress. Edited by Barbara A. Paulson, the book is based on discussions about the nature of historical fiction and tributes to Herman Wouk that took place at the Library of Congress on May 15, 1995. Sponsored by the Center for the Book, the event marked the gift by Mr. Wouk to the Library of Congress of the manuscripts of five of his historical novels (Winds of War, War and Remembrance, Inside Outside, The Hope and The Glory).
During the day a distinguished group of 17 writers, historians, publishers, and librarians discussed historical fiction as a genre and Herman Wouk's achievements.. Their comments have been edited for the book, which concludes with Mr. Wouk's after-dinner address, "L'Envoi: A Personal Vision of the Historical Fiction to Which I Have Devoted Thirty Years."
The book, after introductions by Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole and Editor Barbara A. Paulson, begins with remarks from biographer Robert Caro, who recalled his reading of Mr. Wouk's The Caine Mutiny on the New York subway. He also noted that any symposium on Herman Wouk was really "a symposium on the whole 20th century."
The Historical Novel is divided into five sections:
- Contributors to "Sources and Resources for Historical Fiction" are Jean Ashton of Columbia University ("Research Institutions and the Historical Novel") and Alice Birney of the Library of Congress ("Library of Congress Resources for Research on the Historical Novel").
- "The Historical Novel in Literature and Society" contains contributions by novelists Alan Cheuse ("Bringing History to Life"), Mary Lee Settle ("Language and Memory") and George Garrett ("Historical Memory: Living in a Foreign Country"), and literary scholars James L.W. West III ("The Consequences of Historical Fiction") and Andrew Delbanco ("Can Historical Fiction Tell the Truth?").
- Essays by four publishers constitute "Historical Fiction in the Marketplace": Brigitte Weeks ("Why Do We Read Historical Novels?"), William D. Phillips ("Is the Historical Novel Selling?"), Emilie Buchwald ("Publishing and Marketing Historical Fiction from the Perspective of a Literary Nonprofit Press") and Simon Michael Bessie ("The Role of the Publisher Is to Applaud").
- "History and the Novel" contains essays by historians and Christopher Collier ("Criteria for the Historical Novel as a Teaching Tool") and Martin Gilbert ("The Truth of Historical Fiction") and columnist and novelist William Safire ("The Sense of Scene").
- Herman Wouk ("War and Remembrance") and historians Darden Asbury Pyron ("Gone With the Wind. Novel and Film") David McCullough ("Accuracy and Imagination") contributed to "The Historical Novel on Film," the concluding section of the book and the symposium itself.
A 118-page book illustrated with black-and-white photographs that document the symposium, The Historical Novel: A Celebration of the Achievements of Herman Wouk is available for $9.95 from the Library of Congress Sales Shop. Credit card orders may be placed with the Sales Shop by calling (202) 707-0204.
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading and libraries. This celebration of the achievements of Herman Wouk continues a series of Center for the Book events that honor prominent citizens of the world of books. For information about the Center for the Book and its activities, visit its Web site: www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook.