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“The Constellation of Possibilities: Writing Historical Fiction & The Moral & Ethical Obligations of a Novelist” with Best-selling author Matt Bondurant

September 22, 2022 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm


The poet David Kirby once said that “only shallow people and charlatans begin with perfect knowledge of what it is they mean to say.  An honest writer begins in ignorance and writes his way to the truth.”   The word “truth” is a bit controversial when it comes to historical fiction.  Some authors of historical novels claim they only “stick to the facts,” while others acknowledge and celebrate their expansive creative license.  But we know that our notions of “truth” are complex, and that what we accept as historical actuality is often incomplete or misguided, while at the same time we need to be vigilant and unsparing while researching.  But what about the gaps in the historical record that lie between what I call “the points of light,” or the moments that “really happened?”  How does the writer address that space?  Perhaps this all sounds suspiciously like postmodernism, the specter of relativism rearing its ugly head, or maybe you think that “truth” is flexible or unobtainable, or something we shouldn’t desire to achieve?  In this presentation I will walk through the process of writing historical fiction and discuss the specific and complex obligations of the writer to the historical record.

Bio: Matt Bondurant’s latest novel is Oleander City, and his previous novels include The Night Swimmer, which was featured in the New York Times Book ReviewOutside Magazine, and The Daily Beast, among others.  His second novel The Wettest County in the World is an international bestseller, a New York Times Editor’s Pick, a San Francisco Chronicle Best 50 Books of the Year, and was made into a feature film (Lawless) by Director John Hillcoat, starring Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, and Guy Pearce.  His first novel The Third Translation is an international bestseller, translated into 14 languages worldwide.  He has published short stories in such journals as Glimmer TrainThe New England Review, and Prairie Schooner, and his latest short story appears in the Dallas Noir anthology published in 2015. Matt has published poems in The Notre Dame Review and Ninth Letter, among others, and his poetry is featured in Imaginative Writing, the most widely adopted creative writing text in the world. Matt has written feature articles, essays, and reviews for Outside MagazineNewsweek, and the Huffington Post, among other magazines and newspapers. He has sold three original screenplays including a development deal with HBO/Cinemax to write and executive produce an original one-hour dramatic series, as well as a dramatic series for Warner Brothers Television. He currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi where he serves as the Director of the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi


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