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Bawdy in Boston

Posted by David Mehegan  May 16, 2008 03:43 PM

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Now and then a historian has a go at a work of fiction, perhaps partly out of restiveness with the sort of storytelling that is limited to recoverable fact. Then-Harvard professor Simon Schama (he's now at Columbia) committed a novel called "Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations" in 1991, about Boston's famous George Parkman murder case of 1849.

Now another Harvard historian, Jill Lepore (a regular contributor to the New Yorker), has teamed up on a novel called "Blindspot" with Brandeis counterpart Jane Kamensky, due out in December from Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint. Set in Boston just before the War of Independence and purportedly penned by "a Gentleman in Exile & a Lady in Disguise," the story concerns the murder of a prominent revolutionary, a crime blamed on his slaves. A Scottish-born painter and an African-born physician set about finding the truth. We trust that they do.

The book is said by the catalog to be "prodigiously learned and lush with the bawdy sensibility of the eighteenth century" and that it will turn "topsy-turvy everything you thought you knew about the Founding Fathers." Sounds as though the scholars really let loose, which must be fun when you don't need to write footnotes or worry about peers picking nits in the details.

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