The Valve has begun its eagerly anticipated discussion of Jenny Davidson’s Breeding: A Partial History of the Eighteenth Century. Davidson, it should be noted, is an academic, novelist, YA author, and blogger.
Given the many genres in which she works, perhaps it is not surprising that the first post by Scott Eric Kaufman focuses on Davidson’s use of form. In particular, Kaufman cites Davidson’s use of secondary sources in Breeding:
Rarely do you finish a secondary work feeling like you read the primary sources, but that’s precisely the impression created by Breeding. It took me a long while to realize why Jenny’s long citations were both familiar and compelling, but I finally did: Breeding is less like a scholarly monograph and more like John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World…. McPhee drove back and forth across the country alongside the brightest geological minds in order to tell the story of how America came to look like America, and he let the monologues of his companions dominate his book; similarly, Jenny and her interlocutors guide us through the 18th Century, and she allows voices of her companions to dominate her book. In short, both provide sharp analysis under the guise of judicious narration.
Davidson herself responded to Kaufman’s post and cited the influence of blogging on her work:
Well, I do not want to pre-empt third-person comment by premature authorial intervention&dmdash;but you did not say what I thought you were about to, which is that my style in the book clearly is related to blog format! I cannot tell you what the cause and effect might be—I am partly drawn to blogging because of the way it lets one excerpt and then just offer brief commentary—but I am sure that the voice and style of quotation and commentary I developed as I started posting at “Light Reading” fed into the way I worked on the book…