The Historical Narrative

Karen Abbott: I’m not a historian and I’m not an academic. So you know my . . . I figured my job in this was . . . as a journalist was to tell a story and tell it, you know, as accurately as I could, as thoroughly as I could, but also as entertainingly as I could. And I sort of . . . I try to do that by, you know . . . Luckily a lot of my writing group are novelists, so they would tell me . . . We would exchange drafts and read each other’s work. You know and they would tell me if . . . They would write in the margins like, “I am so bored.” Or they coined a phrase called “information dump”. Like if I had just, you know, wanted to prove how much research I did and just sort of like, you know, wrote page after page of statistics without any narrative thread throughout, they would call me for that and I was really grateful for that. It was important for me to sort of get down all of the information, but without losing any narrative moment. So that’s what I tried to do. That’s a good question too. You know I didn’t wanna be objective. I wanted to have a point of view, and I hope I . . . I hope the book does have a point of view. You know I think that it’s almost impossible for anyone to be objective. I think the whole idea that journalists are objective is a fallacy. Everybody comes to a story of their preconceived ideas and preconceived notions. That’s not to say they can’t change, or be colored, or influenced, or broadened by what they learn along the way. But everybody comes to what they . . . what they’re about to write with their own baggage too, and their research. So I think that objectivity is something that’s really not achievable, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

Recorded On: 1/22/08

Can a historical narrative ever be objective?

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less