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Friday, October 5, 2018

Writing the 'Spirit of Place'

“It may seem unfashionable to say so, but historians should seize the imagination as well as the intellect. History is, in a sense, a story, a narrative of adventure and of vision, of character and of incident. It is also a portrait of the great general drama of the human spirit.” – Peter Ackroyd

Born on Oct. 5, 1949, Ackroyd is an English biographer, novelist and critic who has written some of the best biographical pieces on luminaries like William Blake, Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot.  But his historical novels have earned him the most acclaim, including the Somerset Maugham Award and two Whitbread Awards. He is noted for the volume of his work (36 nonfiction books; 18 novels and 3 books of poetry), and the depth of his research. 

His novel The Great Fire of London, a reworking of Dickens’ Little Dorrit (a terrific example, by the way, of the “serial” writing style that first made Dickens popular), put Ackroyd on the writing map.      That book set the stage for his many novels dealing with the complex interaction of time and space and what Ackroyd calls "the spirit of place.” 
“I don’t think I ever read a novel until I was 26 or 27,” he said.  “I wanted to be a poet … (and) had no interest in fiction or biography and precious little interest in history.  But those three elements in my life have become the most important.”

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