Word has been Received Here

How to write a novel that feels like the understory of a city.

How to write a novel that feels like a building made of steel and glass.

How to write a novel that feels like a fictionalized autobiography.

From Kate Zambreno’s Screen Tests:

I am thinking about how to incorporate historical characters, real people who lived, into the novel. How far do I want to stray from the historical record? How much do I want to play? Historiographic metafiction (loose definition: a self-reflexive fiction that plays with historical events and people as a way of showing the subjectivity of everything, sorry to Linda Hutcheon for oversimplifying) usually takes up people whose personas are kind of public domain — Harry Houdini and Henry Ford and Emma Goldman in Doctorow’s Ragtime [it always comes back to that book with her, doesn’t it?] — but I’m talking about people who lived their lives at the volume that the rest of us do, earning, at most, a handful of appearances in the archives.

I’m talking about Viola Barloga, usually referred to as the wife of architect Jesse Barloga and the interior decorator of his homes but who was also a painter who studied at the Art Students League in New York and the Art Institute in Chicago and once, in 1941, had a painting included in an exhibition of American artists at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. I’m talking about Katharine Keeler Pearman, another Rockford artist whose work was in the same show but whose name isn’t mentioned in the newspaper headline because her husband wasn’t a locally known architect. I love the lede on the brief mention in the Rockford Morning Star: “Word has been received here that two Rockford painters, both women…”

These historical characters seem to want to be a part of the story, and so I’m experimenting with how best to let them speak.