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Picturing a World

News of the World

My public library book group is reading Paulette Jiles’ award-winning News of the World. Its protagonist makes a living by riding around Texas in 1870 to give public readings from newspapers in small towns. To my delight, I learned that Jiles had based him on a real person. It’s from such nuggets of unexpected fact that historical fiction writers are inspired to build entire characters and the worlds they inhabit.

In a National Book Foundation interview, Jiles recounts having listened to Ojibwa storytellers and realizing that “it is instinctive, it is hard-wired in our brains to leap out of the present world and into another.”

What she said connected with a recent post at Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog—The words that matter—, which gets at the reasons for writing (and reading) mythic fiction. Good writers bring news of many worlds, both those they research and those they make up entirely. They open our hearts to possibilities and newness, to wonder. In a time of polarized passions, they nourish our humanity.

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