Thursday, March 08, 2012

Top 10 weird histories

Lloyd Shepherd's first novel, The English Monster, is published by Simon and Schuster in the UK on March 1 2012, and by Washington Square Press in the US in May.

For the Guardian, he came up with a top ten list of weird histories, books that follow from the central idea "that history is a fantasy which can be reestablished by the author - and takes it in all sorts of directions." One title on his list:
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Not entirely "weird", although plenty of odd stuff happens, but here because it describes a past in such a resolutely modern way that the vanished worlds come alive again, brightly and brilliantly (I could just as easily have chosen Wolf Hall). It is set in 1799 in Nagasaki Harbour, where the island of Dejima is joined by a gate to the mainland and is the only connection between Japan and the outside world. The Dutch East India Company holds the trading rights on the island, and it sends along a new employee, Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk from the Netherlands who falls for the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor. An extraordinary achievement of research and style, this is a book which describes a moment and a place in history that are so surpassingly odd as to be distinctly weird.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue