Friday wrap (with lettuce)

Things in my head today:

1. The Hilary Mantel ‘scandal’

2. Coming-of-age stories

3. Getting away from the Internet

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a link to an article by Hilary Mantel which was actually a speech she gave London Review of Books lecture series at the British Museum. I thought the article was brilliant — I’d never read any of her non-fiction or essays (I don’t even know whether she has an NF-oeuvre) but this article was articulate and brilliant, and I understood it because I read all of it and because I wasn’t a trashy newspaper mogul who would therefore get on the defensive and see a beat-up possibility.

Then on my facebook, I saw a defence of Mantel from MJ Hyland, one of my favourite writers:

Hilary Mantel’s speech, was not only brilliant – every clever word chosen with care and genius – the Pandas, the kebab sticks – but none of it was petty, all of it superbly designed to speak the truth, to say things of inestimable importance. It seems to me that Hilary said what she said – in part – to provoke debate, to make a point; a startling and important point. And she has. And now, she’s getting grief from the same kinds of fools who, with heads full of unexamined ideas, adored Lady Diana until they wiped her out.

Mantel is a wise and brilliant being. And I hope she ignores the fools, the dumb chatter and daft fall-out and know that her speech will make a good difference And know that if nothing else, the smart people, the thinking, all of them recognised your speech as purely wonderful. Your speech was hilarious, metaphorical and not as literal as the nitwits think it was. A canny speech. The audience didn’t laugh enough, or get the jokes, but among them, there were dozens who, like me, said, “Brava, beautiful, smart, wonderful, Hilary! Thank you! You’re not only one of the world’s most gifted writers, but a daring and sharp and blunt and original soul and thank the universe (and all its dark matter) for the gift of you.”

Maria xx

Go Maria. Then, there was a flurry of other pieces, such as this from The Independent, saying Mantel’s piece was venom-free, and this in The Age. And now today, this piece on why novelists are ‘deliberately misunderstood.

In short: Mantel did not diss Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge; she didn’t diss Diana, she didn’t diss the royals. People who think she did are a) people who didn’t read the whole thing and try to understand what she was saying or b) people who will gain from making a fuss. I haven’t seen any of the purportedly horrendous comments being made about Mantel (I avoid the comments section of The Age and other online newspapers where possible, because to go to the comments and read through them is often like going to a very dark, slimy cave. You can start to go crazy, get angry or both.) She has been attacked and some have come to her defence which I’m glad to see.


Coming-of-age stories. Earlier this week I said that I’d started re-reading Catcher in the Rye and that my daughter had nabbed it to read. And I said maybe that had something to do with me mentioning that I imagined Leo Di Caprio as Holden in the book. Well. Yesterday, she came home from school and when I asked how Catcher was going, her gorgeously alive face went all melty and dreamy and she said she loved it so much. Next she will read The Bell Jar and she has (for school) read and is studying Old School, Tobias Wolff. I wish I’d done these books at school, rather than (or in addition to) the Austens and Brontes. Maybe my school wanted to show us young gels that female writers could… write. The Bell Jar would have been too scandalous for our precious little minds, I suppose.

So, I’m reading Old School in between her spiriting it off to school. I’ve also persisted to a certain point with Catch-22 (see my previous list of unreadable reads. Boy it’s hard, it’s just so frenetic and more and more characters seem to be added. I guess he’ll stop adding so that I can settle?) I’ve also just finished PM Newton’s The Old School (cop story set in Sydney, multicultural backdrop and a protagonist called Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly ( a young Vietnamese-Australian female, love that!) which I enjoyed as something outside my usual reading landscape. Next I have Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (as ‘research’ for my second novel) and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, also as second-novel research, to look at his structure and how he connected different times and narratives, apparently like Russian nesting dolls.


Ah, the Internet. I’m going to my mother’s place right now to work. She’s out for the day and I won’t be able to access her Internet, so I’ll take my books and lie on her bed and read. Take my laptop and do some editing of what I’m calling Draft 7 but really isn’t a 7, it’s more like a ‘real’ 2 or something. Go out for solo lunch next door where they have really nice salads and coffee. Then I’ll come back here around 4, buying fresh fish on the way for dinner and that’s my day. That’s my Friday.

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