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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

A Memoir of My Former Self: A life in writing

A Memoir of My Former Self: A life in writing by Hilary Mantel, edited by Nicholas Pearson

In the title piece of this posthumous selection of reviews, criticism, essays, and journalism, Hilary Mantel describes how she once visited an irritating psychic she nicknamed ‘Twerp’ in order to guide her back to her former self: ‘I didn’t necessarily think I had a past life, but I wanted to know how it would feel if I did.’ Her former self turns out to have been a ‘miserable illegitimate infant’ called Sara, born to a family of millworkers in the north of England. Sara isn’t an unlikely candidate: Mantel’s mother worked in a cotton mill from the age of fourteen, as did her maternal grandmother, who left school aged twelve; Mantel’s great-grandmother had been illiterate. Mantel comes from ‘a long line of nobodies’. All that ‘Twerp’ wants to ask Sara is whether or not she is courting, when the real love of Sara’s life is Billy, her white bull terrier. ‘If Sara had slapped him,’ Mantel wonders, ‘what sort of a defence would I have had to a charge of assault?’




From the Archive

November 2009, no. 316

Paradise Updated by Mic Looby

Paradise Updated, Mic Looby’s first novel, is a scathing satire on the tourism industry, in particular the guidebook business. Looby, who worked for many years as an editor and author at Lonely Planet, seems to know his stuff; his novel reads like a thinly veiled dig at his former employer, now a global enterprise.

From the Archive

August 1994, no. 163

David Gilbey reviews 'Christina Stead' by Jennifer Gribble, 'Janet Frame: Subversive fictions' by Gina Mercer, and 'The Ironic Eye: The poetry and prose of Peter Goldsworthy' by Andrew Riemer

I am enmeshed in criticism. Criticism defines and speaks me. I criticise, therefore I have a job. But criticism is a tricky business. It’s partial, changes from one time/place/person to another (as Jennifer Gribble acknowledges).

I’m not an expert on Janet Frame or Christina Stead (although I’ve included books by each on courses in the past) and my awareness of Peter Goldsworthy’s oeuvre is better but patchy. Like most university lecturers (I suppose), I read more reviews than actual books, although my preference is for the reverse. But with the vision of ABR’s editor as the bejewelled ringmistress conjured up in Gina Mercer’s book, I don my cap and bells, cry ‘Nuncle!’, and off I go into the hurricane.

From the Archive

January-February 2016, no. 378

'Windows' a new poem by Geoff Page

A small town in the 1940s. We're paused here, slightly sweating, on a route march from the future. The houses are all wearing down, decrepit…