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Temperance
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PostSubject: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 08 May 2012, 17:17

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/08/bring-bodies-hilary-mantel-wolf-hall

Harry Potter for adults? Maybe, but my copy is already ordered. Can't wait for Thursday.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 08 May 2012, 17:19

Yes.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 08 May 2012, 17:40

That chapter one is a bit over-written, isn't it?

Seriously, sir, your writing is - possibly - better, but Mantel is a very strange and clever woman. I have met her, you know -my five (or should that be fifteen?) minutes of fame - and discussed "Wolf Hall" with her - a conversation conducted, alas, in a public lavatory, not over dinner at Buddleigh Salterton.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 08 May 2012, 18:12

I'm on a phone so can't type much. Suffice to say that insertion of the occult rarely clarifies historical narrative, unless the point is historical of course. If it is gratuitously inserted to fulfill a current sales criterion then may she be forever consigned to pay penance to TC's soul in (woo woo) purgatory. Allah knows, he needs it.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 08 May 2012, 18:39

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/04/bring-up-the-bodies-hilary-mantel-review?intcmp=239

"...the Plantagenets are plotting in the shrubbery."

How I wish I had written that line.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Wed 09 May 2012, 07:17

Some clarification needed here - I mentioned Harry Potter simply because of the hype surrounding the publication of the sequel to "Wolf Hall". I have no idea whether there is anything about the "occult" in the book at all, although Mantel presumably will deal with the witchcraft accusations. I think the hawks are just hawks.

The whitewashing of Cromwell will no doubt continue.

But Anne Boleyn was apparently an ex-pupil at Hogwarts - well spotted to those kids:

http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/337/anne-boleyn-ex-pupil-of-hogwarts/
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Wed 09 May 2012, 09:43

There could be traces of the occult in that extract, T, but in the references to the antiquities and remnants of the deep past which, in the late medieval period, were thought to have just such powers. Prehistoric and Roman bits and pieces sometimes were placed in graves, it's suggested for their apotropaic and amuletic properties. I don't expect that the theme will be developed in the story - but maybe, given some of the things said about Ms B.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Wed 09 May 2012, 14:08

@ferval wrote:
There could be traces of the occult in that extract, T, but in the references to the antiquities and remnants of the deep past which, in the late medieval period, were thought to have just such powers. Prehistoric and Roman bits and pieces sometimes were placed in graves, it's suggested for their apotropaic and amuletic properties. I don't expect that the theme will be developed in the story - but maybe, given some of the things said about Ms B.

Hi ferval,

I've been trying to log in all morning to reply to you, but it seems my computer is on the black list both here and at Englistory. It is behaving "suspiciously", so I'm having to post from the local computer shop!

Very interesting what you say about stuff being placed in graves - I had absolutely no idea about that! There's also that remark - "Others say he haunts the company of sorcerers" - it'll be interesting to see if HM develops that.

Possibly just a coincidence, but the man executed with Cromwell - the completely bonkers Walter, Lord Hungerford - was sentenced for (among other things) dabbling in sorcery.

Back hopefully in a few days - the El Supremo tells me it took that long with Trike who had a similar problem. I'll possibly have read "Bring Up The Bodies" by then! Meanwhile I'll just be one of the ghostly guests, reading but not posting.



PS Mantel *is* interested in spooky stuff - her "Beyond Black" is a very weird book. Good review here by Fay Weldon who says, "For all we know, Purgatory is already here, creeping ever nearer the centre of our cities".

Crikey.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/apr/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview30
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Wed 09 May 2012, 15:18

Temp, I think you have an institutional log in so, if your machine is co operating, you should be able to get into this "Magic for the Dead? The Archaeology of Magic in Later Medieval Burials" by Roberta Gilchrist.
All this woman's stuff on the medieval is worth reading, I'm impatiently waiting for her new book to come out.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Thu 10 May 2012, 16:17

Exile over thank goodness - but alas no one around.

Excellent article here by James Wood, Prof. of the Practice of Lit. Crit. (or something equally grand) at Harvard. The piece is not just about Mantel's brilliance (she has, he reckons - and I agree with him - "the maddeningly unteachable gift of being interesting"); it also looks at the writing of historical fiction in general - something Wood describes as "a somewhat gimcrack genre not exactly jammed with greatness":

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/05/07/120507crbo_books_wood

I wonder what Priscilla and Nordmann - two who do it rather than talk about how to do it - think of Wood's comments?

I apologise to Walter, Lord Hungerford for calling him bonkers. That could well have been Tudor propaganda that I fell for. Interesting that this man - Cromwell was his patron - was convicted of sorcery and incest, both charges brought against Anne Boleyn - also sodomy which, if Prof. Retha M. Warnicke is to be believed (not many people do believe her, mind you), was the "crime" which really got George Boleyn and his pals convicted, not adultery with the queen at all.

Hungerford's death on the same scaffold as Cromwell was possibly one of Henry's nasty little jokes.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 11 May 2012, 08:52

At one point he praises Mantel for not making historical accuracy a principal feature of her narrative style - which is all well and good until he then cites one excellent instance of minutely accurate historical detail on her part (the "Fugger bags") as probably inaccurate but that this, as he previously said, is irrelevant (since she is so gosh-darned "interesting" anyway). The author has gone to the trouble to include authentic detail for a reason. Wood can choose to ignore that reason if he wants to (probably an inverted admission of his own historical ignorance or lack of personal curiosity in such detail). But he should not then attempt to defend such ignorance by alleging that the author doesn't mind her readers being so historically obtuse as she probably makes up the half of it anyway herself, when she most definitely has not.

Phineas Fletcher (who did Edmund Spenser better than Edmund Spenser) had the likes of Wood's vainglorious type of "critique" perfectly summed up in;

"When needs he must, yet faintly then he praises,
Somewhat the deed, much more the means he raises:
So marreth what he makes, and praising most, dispraises
."

Oddly enough, this is the part of the excellent "The Purple Island" which deals with envy. Hmmmm .....
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sat 12 May 2012, 08:26

Some more of what Wood would probably describe as Mantel's gleeful disregard for historical accuracy in the interest of being interesting.

Anne Boleyn - witch, bitch, temptress, feminist

One of the best summations of the Boleyn episode I've read. And as accurate as it gets.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sat 12 May 2012, 09:59

That is an impressive piece of writing, I can't comment on its accuracy but it's enough to temp me to buy the book for my holiday reading.
I'm struck by this
Quote :
The court's erotic life seems knotted, intertwined, almost incestuous; the same faces, the same limbs and organs in different combinations.
Perhaps the opprobrium heaped on 'The Tudors' for displaying this period as soap opera is unfair and indeed that is the genre that captures the flavour if not the facts.
The other aspect is how strongly the Medieval view of woman, cold, wet and dangerous, the daughter of Eve and the downfall of man, is embedded in the expressed view of Anne,
Quote :
She was, and is, credited with serpentine sexual wiles
not that that has gone further than below the surface. Mrs Simpson, with her 'oriental tricks' or the seductive teen flaunting herself to arouse the helpless desire of the male are still tropes that litter our pages.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 13 May 2012, 15:47

@ferval wrote:
That is an impressive piece of writing, I can't comment on its accuracy but it's enough to temp me to buy the book for my holiday reading.

I'd recommend "Bring up the Bodies" for anyone's holiday reading, ferval. I've just finished it - the entire novel consumed in an almighty Tudor binge which started late on Thursday night. I'm now a jaundiced and resentful python, digesting it all slowly.

It really is a superb book. Mantel, like all good lawyers (see below) and historians, is glittering, cold and analytical. And you just can't fault this woman's writing - she has it all: insight, technique, control, artistry. It's absolutely sickening. And yes, I am jealous.

That said, may I be allowed a tiny, presumptuous carp? I read somewhere - in a review, or in a comment after a review - that Mantel (who actually did train as a lawyer) has, like her hero, Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer's heart, "cold and brittle". Cold. The word I used above, and which indeed struck me about the Tudor people she conjures up. The odd thing is you get the feeling at times that they - even when they are consumed with lust or fear or ambition - are not quite human. They're reptilian. The Tudor court was a snake-pit, of course, full of all sorts of cold-blooded, vicious creatures (not just snakes) with the great lizard himself, Henricus Rex, towering above the lot of them. But Mantel seems to suggest that there is no sympathy here (indeed that there should *not* be) - no compassion, no anguish, no pity whatsoever for the foolish, the suffering, the loving or the loveless - the *human*. Hers is a strangely Dawkinsesque, godless (given all the religion that was going on) Tudor world - survival (or a kind of survival) of the fittest, and the devil take the hindmost. The real world, I suppose. But it's uncomfortable that there is not a trace of "The pity of it, Iago!/Iago the pity of it..." - or even of "These bloody days have broken my heart" to be had anywhere. I suppose Iago's - or Cromwell's - or, I fear, Mantel's - lip would curl at such sentimental tosh.

And her article for the Guardian is indeed excellent isn't it? What a clever woman she is - although a little mean, I feel, with the following:

Hilary Mantel wrote:
There is no evidence that the monster baby ever existed, yet some modern historians and novelists insist on prolonging its poor life, attracted to the most lurid version of events they can devise.


Fair enough to have a swipe at fellow novelist, La Gregory, but here's poor old Professor Retha M. Warnicke getting in the neck again. All the deformed foetus/sodomy/witchcraft stuff is from her book "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" and here it is dismissed as lurid nonsense yet again - yet Madame Mantel acknowledges in her author's note that she is "indebted" to - among that of other historians - the work of this American academic.

Witchcraft may not have been the official charge against AB, but the "evidence" (and boy, was it "lurid"!) dredged up at her trial certainly suggested that Henry was not using figurative language when, early in 1536, he told one of his courtiers that he had "made this marriage seduced by sortileges and charms". This juicy snippet was duly passed on to the astonished Spanish ambassador, Chapuys (who, it must be admitted, was an inveterate gossipmonger) by the Marquis of Exeter, one of the Plantagenets who was plotting in the shrubbery.

Did Henry say it? Did he mean it? Was he using "sortilege" in the sense of "divination" or of "occult powers"? Chapuys wrote to his master, the Emperor, using the word "enchanted" - did *he* mean "fascinated" or "bewitched"? Did "bewitched" simply mean (as in Tyndale's New Testament) "deceived"? Yet the evidence at the trial - discussed so convincingly (well to me at least, but perhaps I'm being naive) by Warnicke - all points to general witchcraft nastiness.

Anne Boleyn was after all a clever, tiresome, arrogant, educated woman - witch/ bitch/feminist. Guilty then - as not actually charged?


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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 13 May 2012, 16:43

While in the car this afternoon I caught parts of a review of the book and an interview with the author on the radio , annoyingly my passenger kept talking and didn't take the hint when I turned it up. It's OK, it was just my son, I haven't lost any last remnants of courtesy.
The review was entirely positive and I'm going to see if I can 'listen again' to the interview. It's here if you want to listen too.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01h5z8k
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Mon 14 May 2012, 09:57

Thanks for the link, ferval.

Doesn't she sound like a nice, sweet, ordinary little lady?

Don't be fooled!

One frock indeed!


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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Mon 14 May 2012, 10:16

Yes, I noticed the frock throwaway as well. What a skill to be able to clothe a blinding intellect in such an accessible manner and so well pitched at the audience. Clever, clever girl.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Thu 17 May 2012, 19:04

It's no good, I'm going to have buy this book. 69 reservations at DCC libraries already. I'm not going to be able to wait that long. Have just been up to the Cotswolds getting involved in the Romans at Cirencester. Lovely.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Thu 17 May 2012, 19:22

In Sainsbury's £9.99 and on the shelf of my local branch.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Thu 17 May 2012, 19:22

Do tell us more Mathilda! What were you doing with the Romans at Cirencester? Sounds really interesting.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Thu 17 May 2012, 19:46

Hi mathilda - were you in the Corinium museum? I was at a corporate do there once which was pure agony - we had the whole museum to ourselves but since it was a corporate do one was obliged to sit and suffer while surrounded by fantastic exhibits which one couldn't take a gander at. Pure torture.

Luckily one of the caterers was of like mind so we managed to smuggle each other out and do look-out in turns as we surreptitiously gave ourselves a private tour of the place. Archaeology students turn up everywhere - thank heavens.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Thu 17 May 2012, 23:14

I've been meaning to say, I think it's a lousy title and would never tempt me to even pick up the book to thumb through if I weren't aware of the author or the hype.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 18 May 2012, 08:42

@ferval wrote:
I've been meaning to say, I think it's a lousy title and would never tempt me to even pick up the book to thumb through if I weren't aware of the author or the hype.

I think it's a good title!

"Bring up the bodies" was the expression actually used to give the order to have prisoners delivered to Westminster Hall for trial (Weston, Brereton, Smeaton and Norris were all tried at Westminster; only Anne Boleyn and her brother, George, were examined before peers in the Tower). Nice irony for the first step in a process that was clear and logical, and designed after all to create corpses by a due process of *law*.

I've been reading lots of reviews of Bring up the Bodies, and I'm dismayed that so many people see Mantel's Cromwell as a pretty sympathetic character - tolerant, reasonable, avuncular even - a basically humane (!) man who was just following orders. That frightens me. Only Diane Purkiss in the Independent notes something of the chill I felt. She says, "Her Cromwell is as practical as we are...with no religion or love of the monarch, because we have none...omitted is any genuine empathy with an unintelligible world of religious sensibility."

Purkiss continues, "In Bring up the Bodies we tumble fast into violent absolutism - 21st-century variety. Cromwell's improbably secularist sensibility is the precursor of a passion for state power." Purkiss searches for a comparison; she comes up with, not Stalin's Beria or Orwell's O'Brien as you might suppose, but with Jeremy Bentham. Now that is interesting! I wish I knew more about Bentham - but didn't he dream up the idea of the panopticon - a means of continual, *dispassionate* surveillance? Shudder. And isn't it thought that Bentham - brilliant but eccentric - suffered from Asperger's Syndrome?

And talking of autism - look out for Jane Seymour - she seems to be borderline autistic; she certainly takes everything literally. Even Cromwell is startled at times.

PS Mathilda, it's worth forking out £10 or so!

I know nothing about the Romans, but I loved the villa at Chedworth. Wonder if you visited there?
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 18 May 2012, 09:46

Quote :
"Her Cromwell is as practical as we are...with no religion or love of the monarch, because we have none...omitted is any genuine empathy with an unintelligible world of religious sensibility."
Is that meant to be a criticism of Mantel's lack of empathy with the world view of the time or an appreciation of her depiction of the character as a man out of his time, do you think? If it's the former, and justified, then it's a pretty serious indictment and would bring the whole premise of the book - or books - into question.
I'm in a quandary, I want to delay reading it until I go away next month but I'm getting frustrated at discussing it sight unseen.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 18 May 2012, 09:56

The notion that Bentham suffered (!) from Asperger's Syndrome is based on his strict philosophy in which vagueness and unpredictability was anathema to pursuit of truth and/or fact. However this is a very modern interpretation of his character and, I would suggest, not based on an actual understanding of his relationship with utilitarianist principles (he objected as much as conformed to them). Likewise his wish to be embalmed after death is paraded as even more evidence for the condition, this despite the fact that simple embalming was never what he specifically requested and, in fact, wasn't performed on the body anyway either.

I can see Purkiss's point regarding Cromwell's leaning towards a utilitarian viewpoint many years before the concept could even be described in words. But it is a limited comparison - not least because Cromwell's philosophy was only consistently utilitarian when applied to specific political goals whereas Bentham derided even the most "exalted" of political goals as distortions of the actual processes being undergone in their formulation. Bentham was after the truth of things, its discovery being an end in itself. Thomas Cromwell was after something else entirely.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 18 May 2012, 20:57

@ferval wrote:
Quote :
"Her Cromwell is as practical as we are...with no religion or love of the monarch, because we have none...omitted is any genuine empathy with an unintelligible world of religious sensibility."
Is that meant to be a criticism of Mantel's lack of empathy with the world view of the time or an appreciation of her depiction of the character as a man out of his time, do you think? If it's the former, and justified, then it's a pretty serious indictment and would bring the whole premise of the book - or books - into question.
I'm in a quandary, I want to delay reading it until I go away next month but I'm getting frustrated at discussing it sight unseen.

Oh, read it, ferval - you can always take "The Lady of the Rivers" on holiday with you. I bought that Gregory offering this afternoon - chucked it into the trolley in Morrisons in a moment of reckless abandonment. It was reduced to £2.99, so what the heck, I thought.

I've had a bad hair day today. I've been told in no uncertain terms that:

1) I am stupid;

2) I don't know what I'm talking about;

3) I know as much history "as our guinea-pig" (now that really did distress me - guinea-pigs are dear little creatures, but do they know *any* history?);

4) I've totally misread the Purkiss article;

and

5) I quote out of context.

Well, there you have it.

Here's the link to the Purkiss article by the way.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/bring-up-the-bodies-by-hilary-mantel-7734218.html

PS I know Asperger's is a *difference* and not a *disorder*. Apologies for "suffered" - I really did not mean to offend.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 18 May 2012, 21:18

I wasn't having a go at you - I have a policy of not shooting too many messengers or piano players in one day which has seen me through life quite adequately (though I've always promised myself to make an exception should I ever meet Bobby Crush in the flesh - yeek, what a horrible image).

However the "Bentham as an Asperger candidate" has never worked for me. People who say it have rarely actually read what he wrote, I've found. The Purkiss review I confess to have criticised on the basis of your citations from it. I'll read it in its entirety now. Thanks for the link.

I concur with ferval however with regard to Mantel's choice of title. While aware of its origin I still think it smacks too much of Burke and Hare and less of Cromwell's wet dream moments.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sat 19 May 2012, 13:14

I hate to admit it, but I'm quite enjoying "The Lady of the Rivers", although I don't think Diane Purkiss will be writing an article about it for the Independent.

Which is probably just as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Mon 28 May 2012, 07:59

After reading all this I am looking forward to "Bring up the Bodies" I have it on order, in the meantime I am relaxing with Stella Rimmington and thoroughly modern spies.

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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Mon 28 May 2012, 12:12

Just received my copy of Bring up the Bodies this morning in the post. I've read the first page and the prose is heartachingly beautiful. What a writer our Hilary is!
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 29 May 2012, 16:10

Hi Gran and Mathilda,

I envy you both that you still have "Bring up the Bodies" to read!

I went through a spy phase a couple of months ago, Gran - after seeing the new film of Tinker Tailor. Not a patch on the old BBC Tinker Tailor/Smiley's People starring Alec Guinness.

I also recommend the superb BBC "Cambridge Spies" about Blunt, Maclean, Philby and Burgess. It's an absolutely brilliant production - you can get it from Amazon.

Those young men baffle me - they had everything going for them, and yet they chose to be traitors. I suppose in those days(the 20s/30s) you were either a rabid Communist or a rabid Fascist. My own father - who contines to baffle me 40 years after his death - was a Cambridge man and he supported Oswald Mosley. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 29 May 2012, 19:56

I dare say they didn't see themselves as traitors Temp, they must have believed in what they were doing. Idealism is ever dangerous.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 29 May 2012, 21:38

It was a strange time temp, the 30s, and unfortunately I can see it rising again, did you see on the news all those football fans and their nazi signs, I think it was in the Ukraine, there are a lot of the same in Austria and Germany again as well. enough of that.

I loved the Alec Guiness version of Tinker, and I will look out for the BBC "Cambridge spies", we can get most of the BBC DVDs. I must say Stella Rimington knows her stuff, and why wouldnt she? I will work my way through her books from the oldest to the newest.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 16 Oct 2012, 22:31

Deleted - message sent twice!


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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Tue 16 Oct 2012, 22:33

Congratulations to Hilary Mantel. Eat your heart out, Philippa Gregory!


http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/16/hilary-mantel-wins-booker-prize
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Wed 17 Oct 2012, 07:27

Looking forward to the third instalment!!
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 26 Sep 2014, 13:18

Hilary's latest tome: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

The Daily Mash says;

NOVELIST Hilary Mantel has confessed to the murder of Margaret Thatcher.



The writer admitted her short story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher was inspired by actually carrying it out.
Mantel said: “They covered it up at the time because they didn’t want everyone knowing the security services had been outwitted by a middle-aged woman with eccentric hair.
“I bought a big gun from the classified section of Mercenary Quarterly, rented a flat opposite the hospital then sat munching on Ginsters pasties until the Marge Simpson-esque silhouette of Thatcher’s head appeared in the window.”
Mantel said she had since done a number of contract killings under the codename ‘The Pine Marten’.
“I’ve actually lost count of how many, after you’ve popped a few it’s just like having a cup of tea.”
She added: “I don’t really care if they bang me up, at least in prison I could crack on with some books without getting harangued by infant-brained Daily Mail readers who need every last apostrophe explained to them.
“Also I would totally run things in prison, because I am hardcore. Everyone would call me ‘Duchess’ and appease me with cigarettes.”
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 26 Sep 2014, 20:14

It's one of ten short stories. Here is the tale that has caused such outrage:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/19/hilary-mantel-short-story-assassination-margaret-thatcher


Last edited by Temperance on Sat 27 Sep 2014, 08:53; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Fri 26 Sep 2014, 20:48

Triceratops,

I read once on holidays: "A place of Greater Safety" In the beginning pleased with the description of the three characters and the circumstances of the French revolution, which I found well described, I nevertheless got gradually bored with the endless details and slow pace of the novel (I read it in English...and after a while skipping over whole pages and even tens of pages, returning when the thread of the story escaped me, and even that at the end...)
It is the only work I read from her...

And now about Margaret Thatcher...in Belgium not aware of it...but read Dutch comments about the novel...
and:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/22/hilary-mantel-critics-thatcher-assassination-short-story
In my humble opinion it is some sensation seeking or political action...I have a horror of historical novelists, they "can be as good as they want" (not sure about the expression in English), who let interfere their personal political attitudes...for me she is finished...and I am neither Tory nor Socialist...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilary_Mantel
PS: And due to my long life I can't be shocked by whatever anymore...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sat 27 Sep 2014, 09:42

Mantel has some interesting things to say in this article:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/19/hilary-mantel-interview-short-story-assassination-margaret-thatcher


"It's true that no one can now say a woman can't run the country, but I think she set back the cause of women in public life. She imitated masculine qualities to the extent that she had to get herself a good war. The Falklands was great stuff – limited casualties, little impact on the home front and great visual propaganda. I am not suggesting this was conscious. I suspect Thatcher was the last person in the world to be able to examine her inner life, but she could sell a myth. The idea that women must imitate men to succeed is anti-feminist. She was not of woman born. She was a psychological transvestite."


I don't think Mantel is a sensation seeker, Paul. She has - as ferval has noted earlier in this thread - "a blinding intellect"; does she have any need to be "sensational"? Assassination is a good story, but not the best thing she has written.

Mantel herself strikes me as something of a "psychological transvestite". She is a chilly and chilling mortal - cold, brilliant, analytical - and, for all her feminine, floaty frocks and her soft, almost little girlish voice (when I've heard her speak, Mantel's breathy delivery reminds me, believe it or not, of Marilyn Monroe), she thinks like a certain type of man - logical rather than intuitive. She observes and assesses rather like a High Court judge who doesn't miss anything, but is - or has to seem - quite detached. She is, of course, like her most famous character, a trained lawyer. I find her quite frightening actually - a very intelligent and powerful woman who appears to  imitate femininity, not to succeed, but to be accepted. I wonder if she has more in common with Margaret Thatcher than she realises? One poster on the New York Times describes  her as "a vile woman" - an unkind but rather telling comment.

I'm probably talking nonsense.


Last edited by Temperance on Sat 27 Sep 2014, 15:56; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sat 27 Sep 2014, 11:07

PS I was trying to remember who said Margaret Thatcher had a mouth like Marilyn Monroe. I've just googled it:

"She has the eyes of Caligula but the mouth of Marilyn Monroe." French President Francois Mitterrand
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sat 27 Sep 2014, 22:31

Temperance,

"I don't think Mantel is a sensation seeker, Paul. She has - as ferval has noted earlier in this thread - "a blinding intellect"; does she have any need to be "sensational"? Assassination is a good story, but not the best thing she has written."

But I gave two options Wink : or the sensation seeker or the political action...and again she can have "a blinding intellect" (my perhaps not English expression: "she can be as good as she wants") but use a political agenda (again I agree a supposition of mine...a Socialist agenda?) in a historical novel (or was it a "crimi"?) isn't fair against the historical person of Thatcher...and I know about the historical events as the Pinochet story and her son's mercenary activity and all the rest...

I saw yesterday on the French/German ARTE a film about the dead of Sikorski:
"Dans l'âbime de Gibraltar" (in the abyss of Gibraltar)
I had already read about the controversy and the complot theories, but this Polish film is nearly incomprehesible as about what complot theory is pointed to...certainly it was the British governor but in whose command...?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Sikorski's_death_controversy
And the French site is more complete and more surveyable...
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Sikorski#Sa_mort_.284_juillet.29


What I mean: with all such agenda driven half real/half fictional films (if I understood it well it was the semi official Polish complot theory that was mentioned) even a guy as I get desorientated...and I find it unworthy of such a "serious" TV channel to distribute this stuff...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 08:33

Thank you for your post, Paul: replies - sadly - are dwindling on this site and a response is always appreciated.

Hilary Mantel was on BBC2 last night in a special edition of The Culture Show (Hilary Mantel: Case Histories). She spoke about several of the short stories in her new publication.

As always, I found her fascinating, but very disturbing. Last night she was not so much a breathless little girl, more an apparently cosy little old lady. But such things she was suggesting, still in that soft - instantly recognisable - voice, staring all the while at (or should the preposition be through?) her interviewer - and us - with those scary blue eyes. I want to read Terminus next - a story where she wonders who - in the bustling throng at Waterloo Station - are the living and who are the dead. She mentioned the London plague pits, and I shivered. Did I say yesterday that Mantel has the icy logic of a lawyer? That may sound odd for a woman who writes a lot about hauntings and about ghosts who are themselves "haunted", but the logic is there - just not your usual sort of logic.

She's cold all right, cold as the grave - a woman obsessed with the dead and with the deformed. The "not quite right" that is all around us. Shudder.

But she's interested too in the ones "who didn't die - until they died". Her comments about The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher made it clear that this was no politically motivated rant against a detested woman. The short story is actually about how history happens - or doesn't happen - sometimes in a split second. She spoke of "roads not taken" of "doors not opened". Mantel really was in her Windsor flat that day in 1983 when history didn't happen: when Thatcher emerged from the private hospital and wasn't assassinated. But she could have been. Had an IRA intruder gained entry into the flat, a gun could easily have been fired from the writer's kitchen window. But there was no IRA man, no gun and history went on as before. Nothing changed. But it might have done. That is her point - a historical one, not a political one.

History turns around such things. What if is a favourite game. What if Edward IV had decided to have a quick half-hour in bed with Jane Shore that cool April evening in 1483? But he didn't: he called for his fishing rod instead, and the rest is history - or one version of it. What if the bright young actor just arrived in London in 1591 had discovered that being unfaithful to your wife was actually no big deal - had he found himself in bed one afternoon not just with a lively young girl, but also with a lively and very hungry flea? The historical flea, thank goodness, preferring soft female flesh, bit the girl, not our Will. But what if?

If I'm honest, Mantel, much as I admire her writing ability and her intellect, gives me the creeps. My ten minutes or so talking to her in the ladies' lavatory at Hampton Court Palace in 2009 unsettled me dreadfully: I felt I was being assessed by someone not quite human - a little bit of data was being collected and stored, possibly for future use. A bit of data - perhaps I'll get a bit part in her next novel - look out for the foolish woman who is shoving  a "sovereign remedy" for the sweating sickness (treacle and powdered unicorn horn?) up her nose*. That'll be me having my moment of historical fame.

*PS That sounds as though I was doing something illegal in the loo. I wasn't - it was only tea-tree oil going up my nose - used as a precaution during the swine flu scare. Mantel seemed very interested. I did make her laugh at any rate - which pleased me - sort of.


Last edited by Temperance on Sun 28 Sep 2014, 10:32; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Was about to delete, but adjusted a comma instead.)
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 10:26

I'm ploughing my way through 'Wolf Hall' at the moment. I bought it two years ago ... I guess I must be a slow reader. Whilst very good intellectually I do not find it an easy nor particularly compelling read. I'm getting used to it now, but I do find her use of the third person for the narrator rather confusing and I'm constantly having to re-read sections just to work out who is saying what to whom. As I say maybe I'm just a slow reader.

I also don't feel strongly engaged and can feel very little empathy with any of the protagonists, however likeable, detestable, or admirable they may be. I find Mantel's writing clever, factually faultless, well thought out and reasoned, but rather free from passion ... the term clinical comes to mind. And in a vague way 'Wolf Hall' sort of conjures up images of those wood-cuts one finds in the 16th century medical treateses of Parecelsus and the like - of men with grinning skulls detatchedly peeling back their own flesh to show the exquisite detail of their anatomised blood vessels, nerves and organs. In fact more sadistically surgical than simply clinical.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 10:38

MM wrote:
I also don't feel strongly engaged and can feel very little empathy with any of the protagonists, however likeable, detestable, or admirable they may be. I find Mantel's writing clever, factually faultless, well thought out and reasoned, but rather free from passion ... the term clinical comes to mind. And in a vague way her writing sort of conjures up images of those wood-cuts one finds in the 16th century medical treateses of Parecelsus and the like - of men with grinning skulls detatchedly peeling back their own flesh to show the exquisite detail of their anatomised blood vessels, nerves and organs. In fact more sadistically surgical than simply clinical.


Exactly what I was trying to say about her - excellent analogy. I wish I'd posted that, MM.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 10:52

What you did say, Temperance, made perfect sense, though from this distance Hilary Mantel is really only known for her writing - we just don't get writers from afar (or from close by) on our television sets to unsettle us that way.  I liked Wolf Hall, though it took me a long time to read (nothing like as long as it took me to read Anna Karenina, but I didn't feel engaged by Anna either, though I was by Levin and other situations, just not the Karenina/Vronsky one), and I find it easy to be swayed into sympathy by first-person narratives, even if their narrators are unreliable.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 11:02

I agree, MM. I read Mantel's two books (so far) about Cromwell and came away with much the same sensation I might have after watching a particularly well acted, researched and scripted "docudrama". So authentic is the tone that one finds oneself forcibly bearing in mind that while the facts as presented might be as close to the historical truth of events as can be found they are still being presented through a veneer of dramatic licence and subjective invention on the part of the scriptwriter. However the story trundled along through the entire narrative with sufficient invention and vigour to keep one interested - if not in the characters then at least in "what will happen next?" - and, despite the events themselves being so well known, this aspect to the books remained consistent throughout. There are even some surprises along the way, and such is the faith one has in the author's integrity they do not disrupt the logic of the story or in any way jar the reader into questioning the author's intention in including them. This above all else sets her writing apart from the majority of authors of historical fiction. One feels one can trust that what one has learnt historically from reading her stories has at least a grounding in plausible theory.

Having read and heard interviews with Mantel I cannot identify with the assessment of her personality or communication style as "chilling" or "coldly clinical" etc. But I do appreciate that she takes on what are often very sordid aspects to her chosen subjects with as much intellectual and analytical detachment as she does the more acceptably presentable aspects that others have also written about. And, unlike other currently popular authors in the genre, she does not feel a need to invent such sordidness, merely identify it where it already was, include it for reasons of remaining faithful to her depiction of character with warts and all, and not be afraid to give it weight in her narrative so that it retains an integral function within the story just as it assuredly must have done too in the real lives of those she is depicting. It is a hard-nosed and honest approach to historical narration and allows Mantel to explore aspects to history which other authors deny themselves the opportunity to pursue. As an avid reader of this genre I welcome this completely. An invitation to be in total empathy with the characters might be lacking when compared to other authors' approaches but there is an overriding empathy with historical accuracy and respect for historical analysis that, at least for me, more than compensates and makes one glad one has read her books when one gets to the end of them (at whatever speed).
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 13:29

@nordmann wrote:


Having read and heard interviews with Mantel I cannot identify with the assessment of her personality or communication style as "chilling" or "coldly clinical" etc.



As I said, she works hard to hide it: the girly voice, the warm Northern accent, the presentation of the smiling old lady who chooses her words so softly and so carefully. I've still not got over her weird story about the medium. Has anyone else read Beyond Black?  It chills you to the proverbial bone. Mantel likes bones: she talked a bit about them last night.

MM, as I said above, your analogy has really struck home. I was groping after the same idea when I posted this several months ago:

Temperance (me) wrote:


I read somewhere - in a review, or in a comment after a review - that Mantel (who actually did train as a lawyer) has, like her hero, Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer's heart, "cold and brittle". Cold. The word I used above, and which indeed struck me about the Tudor people she conjures up. The odd thing is you get the feeling at times that they - even when they are consumed with lust or fear or ambition - are not quite human. They're reptilian. The Tudor court was a snake-pit, of course, full of all sorts of cold-blooded, vicious creatures (not just snakes) with the great lizard himself, HR, towering above the lot of them. But Mantel seems to suggest that there is no sympathy here (indeed that there should not be) - no compassion, no anguish, no pity whatsoever for the foolish, the suffering, the loving or the loveless - the human. Hers is a strangely Dawkinsesque, godless (given all the religion that was going on) Tudor world - survival (or a kind of survival) of the fittest, and the devil take the hindmost. The real world, I suppose. But it's uncomfortable that there is not a trace of "The pity of it, Iago!/Iago the pity of it..." - or even of "These bloody days have broken my heart" (Thomas Wyatt) to be had anywhere. I suppose Iago's - or Cromwell's - or, I fear, Mantel's - lip would curl at such sentimental tosh.



Caro - thank you for saying what I had written made sense. I so often doubt it these days.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 14:51

Blimey Temp it seems my comment did hit home ... that's what comes of my indulging in a post breakfast-service bit of Res Historica with, perhaps rather aptly, a very large Bloody Mary.

PS - I was going to delete my post too ... but then you quoted it so I couldn't.
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PostSubject: Re: Bring up the Bodies   Sun 28 Sep 2014, 16:43

Temp, I saw that interview as well and I agree with your assessment, as ever I found her deeply unsettling. The contrast you mention between the voice and presentational style and her chosen subject matter and approach jars. I see her, not so much as an iron fist etc, but as a vivisectionist's scalpel hidden in a caressing hand.

In a rather unfavourable review of her collection that I read yesterday it says: Dissatisfying as many of these stories are, their worse crime is that of tone. Throughout there is a sneer, as if the narrators of each are eyeing the world with detached disdain

Perhaps in her work she reveals a flash of that scalpel.
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