An excerpt of this new book appeared in the May edition of “Good Housekeeping”and I give Sultan highest marks for capturing the way a woman who is deaf and blind might express her feelings. Still, I question the ethics of such a novel. William Safire wrote a fictional history of the Civil War, but he had plenty of documentation from which to build his famous characters. Stacy Schiff’s depiction of Cleopatra was born not on the Egyptian queen’s records but from the comments of her enemies and those of later historians. Sultan, however, has not even a thumbtack upon which to hang her narrative. She speculates on a romance because she can, there being no records to confirm or deny.
This story about a deaf and blind girl gets its audience because Helen is real and admired worldwide. Sultan piggybacks upon that fame. She’s not the first to have done so. Jane Austin and Beatrix Potter have been used in the same fashion for a series of detective novels.
(courtesy: 20th Century Fox)
Even Abraham Lincoln has not escaped revisionists. He is now the pivotal character in a vampire story. Pure fiction again, but it sells because of name familiarity.
Mark Twain attempted to protect himself by laying a curse upon opportunists who “played” with his work after his death. I agree with Twain. These shenanigans strike me as a form of grave robbing.