Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lucia Publishers of fiction distorting history

I was in the mall today, waiting to get my hair cut. As I do when I'm hanging around a mall, I browse. I love books, but hardly ever spend much time looking at the bookshops here, because they are typically full of cook books and crap fiction. It's so much easier to hone in on what I want online and order it.

But today, since I had a bit of time I wandered into Whitcoulls where a new book by Philippa Gregory caught my eye. I opened up the jacket cover and read the following:

The Lady of the Rivers is #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory’s remarkable story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses.

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta always has had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she met his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and saw her own power reflected in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the wheel of fortune before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.

Standing there in that bookshop, I was furious! Joan of Arc was not a practitioner of witchcraft! Philippa Gregory was maligning her by writing as if she were. She would never have had anything to do with Tarot cards, except maybe to burn them if she came across them. She was a devout Catholic woman who went to daily Mass and had a profound air of holiness around her. So much so that the men who went to war with her treated her with total respect and absolute awe. To invent a false Joan who was actually a witch just like Gregory's character in the book is to do violence to history.

Philippa Gregory should know better. She has gained a reputation as being historically accurate.  She's even a real historian.  Check this out where she talks about the book.

"[Witchcraft is] a very interesting way that women express their power in this period.  The women have no political power whatsoever but when they lock themselves into this other world, they use their intuition.  If they use their herbal skills or their healing skills, they have access to a power that nobody can control, that nobody understands.  So for women's history, I think, witchcraft and spirituality are very, very important qualities."
She has a very strange way of looking at the women in Medieval times. Yet, this is typical of our age. Untold lies are printed about the past in fiction and few have the knowledge to realise that they are being lied to.  What Philippa Gregory said above is what a friend of mine who reads historical fiction believes of the past.   But it seems the only way she could have come to such a conclusion is that she's been lied to in many of the books she's read, and even though they are fiction, the use of real historical characters and events lends an authority to the book that is believed.  If these people existed and this and that happened, then this idea must be true.

This makes me so angry as few things do.  For I was an avid reader as a child and teenager, and I loved historical fiction.  I also read non-fiction, so I had a pretty good idea, I thought, of what was likely to be true and what wasn't.  Yet writers such as Philippa Gregory fooled me about the late Medieval times and the Crusaders and I discarded my Faith as a result.

So what to do? 

The only way to counter such books is for more and more writers to start writing more truly without pandering to the prejudices and fancies of our time. A false world view could do battle with what is good and true. However, one of my favourite Catholic authors, Micheal D. O'Brien wrote in an article on his website that when he tried to get his first book published, no publisher would touch it unless he rewrote the story in a more contemporary fashion:

For two decades I collected a stack of rejection letters from mainline Canadian publishers, most of whom said something like the following: “We like your writing very much, and it’s a great story. However, the reading public is no longer interested in this worldview. If you would resubmit your manuscript with the appropriate revisions, expressing a more contemporary vision of life, we would be happy to publish you.” By my worldview they meant the orthodox Catholicism, the inheritance of two millennia of civilization, integrally woven into the tale. In other words, if you wish to fulfill your artistic calling in this land, we invite you to tear out your heart and soul, forget your true story, and contribute to the emerging brave new world. You will be richly rewarded if you do so.

No wonder there has been such a dearth of good fiction out there, it has been blocked by the publishers themselves! Either thinking the public is not interested in any alternatives or actively seeking to prevent anything that varies from the acceptable worldview - the result is the same. Publishers have turned into gatekeepers. The medium of the story as a way of presenting some truth is no longer allowed. Only fake truths need apply.

Maybe the only way around this will be the Internet, yet again. Whereby blogs are now known to be openly challenging the mainstream newsmedia and have changed the way the news is reported, ebooks will be the only way to get alternative stories out there. They're just going to need some damn good writers.

Related link: Cankultur at the End of an Age ~ Michael D. O'Brien

17 comment(s):

D.M. McGowan said...

There are many instances of history being changed to support an individual and often an institution or even a government. It upsets me very much.
I would like people to take a moment and think about what they are reading ... that's what fiction is supposed to do, make you think. But they don't; they take statements such as a devout Catholic being a witch and suddenly it becomes "known" that it came "right out of the book."

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your comment. I see from your blog that you are a writer as well. Did you have any problems getting your book published?

I.M Fletcher said...

That is sad. Maybe we just don't get those kind of books here though? In an article at Big Hollywood a couple of days ago, blogger Zachary Leeman was saying that most Hollywood films are so liberal these days, that the place to go for good Conservative entertainment is books...

Let’s be honest. Movies, today, aren’t just one step away from being left wing propaganda, they just plain suck.
We’ve gone from Dirty Harry to Jason Bourne (or whatever his name ended up being; the camera was too shaky for me to ever tell what was going on). We’ve gone from Humphrey Bogart to George Clooney. We’ve gone from John Wayne fighting Indians to Na’vi fighting Americans. But, don’t fret. For there is an answer to our problems, fellow film buffs. I know you’re six feet from that ledge, but let me give you hope…they are called books. They are these contraptions with bindings and pages with words on the inside. Together this all creates a story one hundred times more fulfilling than today’s dim-witted liberal flavor-of-the-month films.

Hollywood has always been a liberal town. They give us anti-Iraq war movie after anti-Iraq war movie despite the fact that they all flop at the box office. But what of the literary world? They must surely share Hollywood’s contempt for conservatives and enriching stories, right? Wrong. The publishing world seems to get it, for the most part. They like to publish what sells and what seems to sell today are right-leaning stories.

Stephen Hunter, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, Frank Miller, James Ellroy, and Andrew Klavan. These are just a handful of names of today’s top fiction writers. All of them have something in common: they have, admittedly, right leaning politics and philosophies. This does not mean that their books are some kind of weird right-wing propaganda. What it means is that their stories usually make the bad guys who the bad guys really are and their heroes don’t shy away from masculinity or righteous indignation


So maybe there is hope after all?

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Fletch,

Thanks for the effort, but I think we're talking about different things here. None of these guys write historical fiction, and my guess is that there's not a lot of spiritual reflection in any of these books. The closest best seller who does a little of it is Dean Koontz.

Anonymous said...

Hang on, if everything she wrote about Joan of Arc was historically accuarate, then we would have one more history book; not a novel.

There are thousands of highly etertaining books written that include historical characters and events, yet make changes for the sake of storytelling.

There are many good novels written where Hitler won, where the Confederates beat the Union, why even one or two about moon landings. No one reads them as history, but for entertainment.

Go read some Harry Turtledove to see alternate takes on history.

ZenTiger said...

The point, I fear, is too subtle for you.

Like the person I talked to that acknowledged that The Da Vinci Code was fiction, but in respect to the Catholic Church, he still thought it was all completely true.

ZenTiger said...

PS: It's too nearly to tell, but in 500 years, the recent history of the 1900's (including Hitler) may be more contested than you might currently imagine.

Anonymous said...

Like the person I talked to that acknowledged that The Da Vinci Code was fiction, but in respect to the Catholic Church, he still thought it was all completely true.

However, I am not that person. I enjoyed the da Vinci Code as a good yarn and had also read his main source, Holy Blood and Holy Grail. I did not read the da Vinci Code as history.

But you may be right about others confusing fiction and fact - after all there are many people who read the Bible as fact.

I.M Fletcher said...

there are many people who read the Bible as fact. And well it is.

Historians still reckon that the Bible is the most historically accurate book we have. Now and then someone will dispute whether a people mentioned in the book is real, but more often than not, archaeological evidence surfaces that proves what the Bible says. It happens more often than you'd think. eg, complaints of no archaeological proof of Pontius Pilate were refuted in 1962 in the form of an inscription mentioning Pilate, “prefect of Judea.”

Other proofs for Biblical stories have been found on finds such as Merneptah Stela, Moabite Stone (or Mesha Stela), Shishak/Shoshenq’s Victory Lists, the Samaratin Ostraca, the Elba tablets and Nuzi tablets.

I claim to be a historian. My approach to the Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history.” E. M. Blaiklock, chair of classics, Auckland University

Anonymous said...

Historians still reckon that the Bible is the most historically accurate book we have.

Do you have any citations for that, from disinterested historians?


Please feel free to correct me if you know more, but as far as I can find out Blaiklock's degree is in theology, not history, so he may well a tad biased, seeing the evidence that confirms his views, ignoring that which doesn't.

I tell you that the evidence for the life, death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history

Show us the birth certificate.

I.M Fletcher said...

"I know of no finding in archaeology that’s properly confirmed which is in opposition to the Scriptures. The Bible is the most accurate history textbook the world has ever seen." - Dr Clifford Wilson, formerly director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology (quote obtained from: Archaeologist Speaks Out)

"Through the wealth of data uncovered by historical and archaeological research, we are able to measure the Bible's historical accuracy. In every case where its claims can thus be tested, the Bible proves to be accurate and reliable." - Dr. Jack Cottrell, The Authority of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), pp. 48-49.

"In every instance where the findings of archaeology pertain to the Biblical record, the archaeological evidence confirms, sometimes in detailed fashion, the historical accuracy of Scripture. In those instances where the archaeological findings seem to be at variance with the Bible, the discrepancy lies with the archaeological evidence, i.e., improper interpretation, lack of evidence, etc. -- not with the Bible." - Dr. Bryant C. Wood, archaeologist, Associates for Biblical Research [1]

"It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical description has often led to amazing discoveries." - Dr. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, (New York: Farrar, Strous and Cudahy, 1959), 136.

"Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts......Yet archaeological discoveries have shown that these critical charges.....are wrong and that the Bible is trustworthy in the very statements which have been set aside as untrustworthy.....We do not know of any cases where the Bible has been proved wrong." - Dr. Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History. Scripture Press, Wheaton, IL, 1969, pg. 1

"The reader may rest assured that nothing has been found [by archaeologists] to disturb a reasonable faith, and nothing has been discovered which can disprove a single theological doctrine. We no longer trouble ourselves with attempts to 'harmonize' religion and science, or to 'prove' the Bible. The Bible can stand for itself." - Dr. William F. Albright, eminent archeologist who confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls following their discovery

I.M Fletcher said...

"There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition." - Dr. William F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religions of Israel. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1956, p. 176.

"On the whole, however, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine....Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has shown, in a number of instances, that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development. This is a real contribution and not to be minimized." - Millar Burrows, Professor of Archaeology at Yale University, What Mean These Stones?, Meridian Books, New York, NY, 1956, p. 1

"The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural." - Professor Millar Burrows (Professor of Archaeology at Yale University), What Mean These Stones?, Meridian Books, New York, NY, 1956, p. 176.

"It is therefore legitimate to say that, in respect of that part of the Old Testament against which the disintegrating criticism of the last half of the nineteenth century was chiefly directed, the evidence of archaeology has been to reestablish its authority and likewise to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller knowledge of its background and setting. Archaeology has not yet said its last word, but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest – that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase in knowledge." - Sir Frederic Kenyon, a former director of the British Museum, The Bible and Archaeology (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940), page 279.

"I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it there. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment." - Sir William Ramsey (eminent archaeologists who changed his mind regarding Luke after extensive study in the field), (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975 reprint), page 89.

Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of facts trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense...In short this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." - Sir William Ramsey (archaeologist), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, pages 81, 222

I.M Fletcher said...

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical author, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.

F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? 5th rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988): 15.

Anonymous said...

Good morning Fletch, and a belatedly Happy Xmas to you.

Excellent quote mining.

Now, have you heard of confirmation bias?

Sure, there's stuff in the bible that his hsitorically correct, just as there probably is stuff in the book that began this thread that is historically correct. But that does not make either of them 100% historically correct.

So, let's begin with a very basic question - As the date of Jesus' birth is unknown, and we know for a fact it was not December 25th, when was he born and why the inaccuracy about his birthdate?

Just askin'.

I.M Fletcher said...

The birthdate doesn't really matter. You're correct in that no one knows the date. It's just the day we celebrate Jesus' birth. It's like Queens Birthday weekend. It's not the date of the Queen's actual birthday (I think it may have been her Father or another Monarch who originally had their birthday on the day), but it doesn't really matter. We know the Queen was born (as we know Jesus also was born) and we celebrate his birthday on a certain day. Saint Nicholas' feast day is actually on the 6th of December, and my Father (originally from Holland) remembers celebrating it on that day.

I.M Fletcher said...

Oh, and a Merry Christmas to you, also :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the birthdate does matter, especially if you are trying to claim the veracity of the bible as an historical record.

The queen's birthday may be celebrated on different days in different countries, and yet we do know she was born on April 21.

So, how do you "know Jesus was born" when there is no contemperaneous record of his birth outside the bible? No birth certificate?

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