Exploring the art of prose


THE ART OF HISTORY, Christopher Bram

The Art of History, Christopher Bram
Graywolf Press, 2016

A recent addition to Graywolf’s wonderful “Art of…” series of books, The Art of History is a terrific resource for any writer. Although writers of historical fiction may be the primary audience, there’s much good advice here that even someone writing a contemporary novel, completely set in the present moment, would benefit from reading this book. By using examples from both fiction and non-fiction, The Art of History is a primer on how to effectively write about both the present and the past.

Bram’s tone is conversational, his logic is easy to follow, and his examples are plentiful. Even when he refers to a book that one may not have read, he provides enough summary and context for the reader to understand the point that he is underscoring.  And for books that may be familiar to many—War and Peace, Beloved, 100 Years of Solitude—Bram provides new insights and ways of considering these classic texts through the lens of history.

A key tenet of this book is the marriage of the public and the personal, the historical and the now. Bram says “As readers, we often go to history to escape the confines of our private lives, but once there we read about characters who yearn to escape history, to back into the private and personal.”