Where has the time gone? As Faulkner said, the problem with the past is that it’s never past, but in our case it feels like we started class last week. In this, our penultimate class, we talked about using archival research to create literary journalism, beginning with Timothy Garton Ash’s incomparable The File: A Personal History, and continuing with Adam Hochschild’s digging in the British Library, the battlefields of the Somme, and in the Russian offices of Memorial, among other places. We also read Dan Barry’s piece on Eleanor (in which the town is the character and the story is told almost entirely in summary), and looked at this piece from West Virginia. What a beginning!
Speaking of archives, today’s Guardian story details how the Crown destroyed or sequestered documents on colonial doings. Continuing with archives, remember that you can request FBI files here, and access thousands of post-Liberation newspapers and village annals/gazetteers here in Hong Kong at the Chinese University’s Centre for Chinese Studies. The last decade has also seen vast amounts of archives digitized – you can access every issue of the People’s Daily, the Times of London, and the New York Times. It’s always good to do a newspaper search on your topic, as there can be surprising results, as I found, coming across first-person reports of the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing.
Finally, you can send me your draft/notes of your last assignment by Friday at noon. Next class, bring a paper copy of the story (single-spacing is fine) with three potential publications up top. Do an I/me/my search, circle those verbs in your rough draft and ask yourself if there are better/more descriptive ones, and *read your draft aloud.* We heard great presentations this week on Orlean, Talese, Morris and Hemingway – remember that nugget from the latter: “Do not mistake movement for action.”
See you next week, with your story, Steinbeck and Nabokov in tow.