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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

August 2006, no. 283

'Art is Not Life' by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

You set down orange, with a dab of blue
and this grows into art
of a non-offender’s kind,
innocent as a fart in the footy crowd.
Meanwhile, the killing stumbles on

From the Archive

From the Archive

February 2010, no. 318

Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific: Travel, empire and the author's profession by Roslyn Jolly

In 1887 Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Kidnapped (1886) and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), left England for the sake of his declining health. By the end of 1889 he was living in Samoa. The British reading public adored Stevenson, and reactions in the press to his immersion in the complicated politics of his new home ranged from irritation to incomprehension. When the sequel to Kidnapped, Catriona (or David Balfour), was published in 1893, they rejoiced in the restoration of ‘their RLS’. One reviewer wrote, ‘Write as many sequels to “Kidnapped” as you wish, and we will read them with zest, but do not tell us anything more about Samoa.’