Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ben Franklin and the Slow-Moving Book

I should know better. For the past couple of weeks, I've been reading A Great Improvisation, which is a history about Benjamin Franklin's work as ambassador to France during the American Revolution, written by Stacy Schiff. I have always admired Franklin, though my real understanding of his work is based on childhood schoolbooks and movies.

The book is well written and obviously well researched. But God, is it slow! Of course, I began it while I was still working on my NaNo novel, which meant I read it mostly while on the morning portion of my commute. Still, nonfiction — especially densely packed nonfiction — tends to only go at about a 20-page per morning pace, whereas I usually knock out about twice as much for a novel.

But these types of books also allow for a better sense of what a character looks like, and that's nice every once in a while (though I very much enjoy imagining what a person looks like). And a history can inspire other ideas — screenplays, for example, other histories, even plays. I only have a hundred pages left of the 400-plus, and while I probably won't finish it this weekend, I should have it back on a shelf before next week is relegated to history.

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