Monday, July 27, 2015

Reader's Diary #1179- John Kendrick Bangs: A Disputed Authorship


New term, to me anyway: Bangsian Fantasy, a genre of fiction that sees famous literary or historical figures interacting in the afterlife. I've seen the premise plenty of times, but didn't know there was a label (not that I'm shocked by that, of course!). The term originates from John Kendrick Bangs who first employed the device in A House-Boat on the River Styx.

"A Disputed Authorship" comes from that book, but most of the stories that comprise the book can stand on their own as long as you know the premise (i.e., that everyone who has ever died up to the publication is floating around the river Styx on a house-boat. This particular story sees Shakespeare, Nero, Charon, Lord Bacon, Emerson, Walter Raleigh, and Doctor Johnson gathering over a game of pool. The plot's not particularly heavy. Shakespeare is feigning offense after being accused of not writing his own material, but before the story is out, it's pretty clear he's a but of a conman, who most likely did not write his own material.

It's humorous and the distinct characterizations are done really well considering the sheer number of characters in the confines of a short story. The story itself isn't the most interesting thing in the world, but at the time, when the device was new, it must have seemed wildly entertaining.



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