Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Anna Katherine Green

Today is—or would be, if she was still alive—Anna Katharine Green's birthday. Green was the first woman to publish a mystery novel (The Leavenworth Case in 1878), and her books tend to be really weird. I don't know why I keep reading them, but I find them bizarrely fascinating. Like watching a Japanese game show: you have a general sense of what's going on, but you can also tell there are things getting lost in the translation. Except in Green's case, the translation is one of time rather than language.

By coincidence, I'm taking a class on historical fiction through Coursera right now called Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction, and Anna Katharine Green is one of the major authors featured. Apparently she was not just the first woman to publish a mystery novel, but was also the first person to write a historical mystery! Mind: blown.

The book in question is titled The Forsaken Inn; and yes, it's already on my Kindle. I thought it would be fun to include the instructor, Bruce Holsinger's, lectures on it here (I really hope the videos work):

Green was a realist? HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS, her books make so much sense now (I'm kidding, they still don't make sense). As a side note, Holsinger's obvious enjoyment of Green's very Victorian writing style is kind of adorkable.

One of the most interesting things I'm learning from this class is how much information can be found in the title pages of old books. They're like the metadata files of books in paper!

Anyway, happy birthday to Green, a very interesting and innovative author in her time period. Nice to see her getting some more attention!