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On Histories and Stories...offer[s] the most spirited and knowledgeable discussion of fiction's basic questions that I have read for some time. These questions—the kind that surrounded the creation of the French nouveau roman, and were reawakened a decade or so later by the magic realists of Latin America—are rarely raised in the United States, where discussions of how literature represents reality have been smothered beneath the arid fuss of politicized deconstruction...Byatt is a vigorous exponent of the view that there is nothing wrong with making books out of books—with admitting that the impulse to write stems from enthusiastic reading, and that literary adventure takes place in a mental world generated from existent texts. Her own recent works of fiction are furiously bookish, and her Ellmann lectures propose a look at 'the sudden flowering of the historical novel in Britain'...Her scope of reference and the number of her plot summaries show a gluttonous appetite for reading...She responds to 'a general European interest in storytelling, and in thinking about storytelling'...Byatt is a writer actively searching for sources of energy outside the comfort zone of British social fiction...[Readers must] be grateful to have the art of fiction reworked in such knowing hands, by one to whom the pleasures and rewards of reading are so fundamental.
— John Updike