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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

A Memoir of My Former Self: A life in writing
Memoir

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?’

Interview

Interview

Interview

From the Archive

December 2001–January 2002, no. 237

Cannabis and Cancer: Arthur’s Story by Pauline Reilly

This is a book about pain. In December 1999, Arthur Reilly was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. The methods of relief offered to him, principally morphine, had drastic side-effects which undermined what pleasure he might have found in living. For four months, he lost weight and showed little interest in his usual activities. He became depressed and contemplated suicide.

From the Archive

November 2012, no. 346

The Conversation by David Brooks

The epigraph from Plato’s Phaedrus cleverly introduces the Socratic dialogue on which David Brooks’s new novel turns. This makes for a brilliant foray into the contradictions at the heart of the truths that both characters are seeking in The Conversation. This question-and-answer exchange is presented as a kind of Scheherazadian dégustation of narratives, where the novel endures for as long as the stories continue. For this reason, the emphasis is on pauses, languor, and an understanding of the way in which something can consume (‘eat away at’) a person.

From the Archive