Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thank you, Hilary Mantel

by David Levine from The New York Review of Books
 Not only for your generous, grand and humane Wolf Hall, but thank you also for your deftly shaped, finally flawed A Change of Climate.  Your fluidly flexible handling in the one, your slight over-contrivance in the second both instruct - delightfully.

Thank you for the easy roll of your sentences, the graceful arcs of action your characters describe, the brilliant miniaturist details within the vast canvas of your plots - for the pleasurable hours the company of your words affords.

And thank you for passages like these in your memoir Giving Up the Ghost. 

On how to write:
I will trust the reader.  This is what I recommend to people who ask me how to get published.  Trust your reader, stop spoon-feeding your reader, stop patronizing your reader, give your reader credit for being as smart as you at least, and stop being so bloody beguiling: you in the back row, will you turn off that charm!  Plain words on plain paper. Remember what Orwell says, that good prose is like a windowpane.  Concentrate on sharpening your memory and peeling your sensibility.  Cut every page you write by at least a third.  Stop constructing those piffling little similes of yours.  Work out what it is you want to say.  Then say it in the most direct and vigorous way you can.  Eat meat.  Drink blood.  Give up your social life and don't think you can have friends.  Rise in the quiet hours of the night and prick your fingertips and use the blood for ink; that will cure you of persiflage!
But do I take my own advice? Not a bit.  Persiflage is my nom de guerre. (Don't use foreign expressions; it's elitist.) 
Thank you for saying all this so well.

(And thank you, Melody, for your last month's litany of daily thanks.  You've inspired me.)


moria said...

She's a genius. When you have a moment (and are feeling strong and stable), read her magnificent recent LRB piece on "Meeting the Devil" after surgery.

Emma J said...

I took the moment - no sense waiting for strength, stability. Exactly what I'm talking about.

Moria, you are becoming associated in my mind with literate and British serious illness. "Wit" has become my middlest's necessary refuge when she wants to grieve her personal losses more anonymously.

Melody said...

What a nice thing- to inspire someone and be thanked. And what a nice thing- to read your blog.

Wonderful excerpts. See you tomorrow.

Fresca said...

She's amazing. Among my top ten favorite books is Mantel's "Fludd."
If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.
I read it several times before I realized it's semi-semi-autobiographical---it's so odd (in an excellent way), the idea that it is in any sense about the author is entirely unobvious.
I also appreciate that she's never written the same book twice.

Emma J said...

Unlike, say, Margaret Atwood or Barbara Kingslover who write over and over in different permutations the same central problem. There are of course pleasures in tracing the almost clinical trials of a mind wrking its way through a problem. I'll have to put Fludd on my list.

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