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For Literary Novelists the Past Is Pressing

For the past two decades, the novels celebrated for defining our time have almost always been books set within our time, from Jonathan Franzen’s voluminous social comedies to Sally Rooney’s smartly self-knowing novels and the seam of contemporary autofiction that has run between them. Historical fiction, by contrast, has not been in fashion. Or, rather, it has been seen as its own fusty fashion, relentlessly uncontemporary and easy to caricature, filled with mothballed characters who wear costumes rather than clothes, use words like “Prithee!” while having modern-day thoughts, and occasionally encounter villains immediately recognizable by their yellow teeth or suspicious smell. Read more

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