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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > NOVEMBER 2016 > Fables of the reconstruction

Fables of the reconstruction

Paulette Jiles’s well-researched historical novel suffers from a point of view that is unfortunately limiting

FICTION

News of the World

Paulette Jiles

William Morrow/Harper Collins

WITH THE omnipresence of 24-hour TV news channels, online news aggregators, and Twitter, it is difficult to imagine a time when global news wasn’t available instantaneously; when, if you wanted any sense of world events, you might have had to congregate in a public forum and pay to listen to someone read the newspaper. In Paulette Jiles’s latest novel, set in 1870 Texas in the aftermath of the American Civil War, that someone is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd.

Inspired by a historical reader of the news, Captain Kidd (who made his first appearance in Jiles’s 2009 novel The Color of Lightning) is a 71-year-old veteran of three wars. Now widowed, he makes his life and living on the road, travelling around small towns in northern Texas, reading the news for those who find his performances entertaining, or simply can’t read. Townsfolk drop dimes into an old paint can to pay for admittance, and Captain Kidd – who is possessed of “the appearance of wisdom and age and authority” – regales them with carefully chosen articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Boston Daily Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the London Times, and other publications.

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