The Young Man On “The Fringe”

There comes that moment when you are finished writing for yourself, and you have to share the total of your effort. I’ve reached (and possibly even passed) that point now. Last night, Conventions went to she who has been a wonderful “critic” since I began this writing endeavor in 2013.

So she has the “biggest” book of all. As I say in the email to her, March 31 – as I note in the sidebar – is unfortunately probably going to have to give. But hopefully only a few weeks at the most.

I was indeed quite truthful in that email. As I was skimming through the .pdf, I was thinking that I am intensely proud of everything I have written. However, this novel is “different” in many ways – it is a distinct move away from some of what is “familiar” and (of course) “modern” in the Atlantic Lives books. These people are not “us.”

Attributed to a follower of French artist David. From left: Thomas Jefferson, unidentified, John Adams, unidentified, Jacques Louis-David, Philip Mazzei, and William Short. [Public Domain.]

It is that younger man on the right side edge – looking on, clearly a subordinate, but yet a presence – that is to me the most intriguing representation in that scene. Ironically, “great men” Jefferson and Adams would leave France before “the storm” truly hit, but one William Short (Jefferson’s private secretary) remained behind. Short would be present in France and in Europe for all of the worst of the French Revolution – up until 1795.

Without Jefferson nearby, the personal historical record around Short is at times somewhat thin. But we know some of what he thought. We also know some of what he did, and with whom – and with a certain young lady in particular.

For many years, I had thought: there is a novel in here somewhere? Finally, I worked up the courage. I thought I’d try to write one.

A novel mixing fictional characters with real ones gives us the flexibility to “fill in” gaps in the historical record while trying to stay true to the spirit of the times. We may attempt to see history through the eyes of those perceived by the “historical canon” as having inhabited merely “the fringe” of that history. A novel is not history of course, but it allows us freedom to re-arrange the historical “furniture” for a bit and try to view that history from “the fringe” perspective.

In a novel, men like Jefferson don’t have to be “central” – we can shove them to “the fringe” for a little while. For those on the “historical fringe” lived lives just as assuredly as did the “great men” of whom we know far more. In a novel, we can breathe life into that “fringe” and make those people “central” much as we all are in our own lives. After all, in our own daily struggles, none of us, to ourselves, is “a fringe.”

On that perhaps somewhat “deep” note, have a good day, wherever you are in the world. πŸ™‚

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