Do either of you read contemporary murder mysteries?
Lepore: I do. I read genre fiction and Jane always makes fun of me for this. I like Rex Stout, on cold winter nights I spend a lot of time reading Rex Stout. I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes with the kids. I like its genre-ism, I like the way its bound in its conventions, the discipline of its conventions sort of fascinates me. So what was fun with the project was to kind of look at the prehistory of all of the genres, the romance, the mystery, the picaresque and the gothic - and the political thriller. The novel itself was born in the 18th century and each of these genres have their roots there. Things that maybe to a modern reader that look so familiar to a modern reader are only familiar in Blindspot are only familiar because they come from this time and place, organically from this kind of society, where people act in this kind of way. It was fun trying to restore those genres to their birthplace.
What has been th reception of this book among your friends and peers?
Kamensky: Few of our peers have read it. It's funny because in our scholarly lives, we live and die by peer review and this was a different sort of enterprise. In some ways, our first readers were our husbands, and our next readers were a set of close friends who need not have any interest in our scholarly work at all. Some of whom have never read our scholarly work.
Lepore: Most of my close friends have never read any of my books!
Kamensky: It was really wonderful to have that peer community brought into this piece of creative work, in a way that wasn't about being around the conference table or presenting at a convention or writing journal articles. We've shown it to a few scholars who have been very helpful about particular briefs. I shared with a friend who is an architectural historian who is the leading authority on the court house and the town house. . A lot of the material on the Boston jail is taken from her work, and her response was, "Oh my God, I'm actually in these places now!" And we shared it with a literary scholar who had the great line, "I read a lot of 18th-century fiction and I read a lot of modern literary fiction. But I never read any modern 18th-century fiction." So we've had a couple of scholarly readers who were very warm and helpful. We don't find anything disjunctive about this and our scholarly work. People in English departments write poems and novels all the time, the seamless logic of that seems clear. For historians, it will be something to talk about,a nd that in itself is interesting. The novel complicates the true claims of the discipline. For our families it was great, it was very much a collaborative work between the two families.
Lepore: My husband does not read my works, and this was really fun for him. He said, "Oh I actually understand what you're doing, what questions actually animate you." He's an avid reader of modern literary fiction, and it was really fun to write the kind of book that he would read. And the gap between history and fiction is a relatively modern one.
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