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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

July–August 2007, no. 293

With Love and Fury edited by Patricia Clarke and Meredith McKinney & Portrait of a Friendship edited by Bryony Cosgrove

Judith Wright and Barbara Patterson met at a gathering of the Barjai group, a Brisbane salon for young poets and artists, when Judith was almost twice Barbara’s age. Judith had not yet published her first collection, The Moving Image (1946). She read some poems and Barbara was magnetised.

From the Archive

October 2002, no. 245

Wild Surmise

Dorothy Porter’s new verse novel, Wild Surmise, takes an almost classic form. The verse novel is now well-established as a modern genre, and Porter has stamped a distinctive signature and voice on the verse form, particularly with the phenomenal success of her racy, action-packed detective novel, The Monkey’s Mask (1994). So it comes as no surprise to find this book setting a similarly cracking pace across some not entirely unexpected territory: an adulterous love affair between two women; and the death, through cancer, of a husband. Additional glamour and some thematic variation are provided by the women’s profession, astronomy. Both women are favourites on the lecture and television circuit, and Alex Leefson’s passionate interest in finding traces of biological life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, generates some of the more purely lyrical moments.

From the Archive

February 2012, no. 338

Currawalli Street  by Christopher Morgan

Currawalli Street is Christopher Morgan’s second novel for adults. Set in a suburb north of Melbourne, the novel is divided into two parts. It follows the lives of the street’s residents on the brink of World War I, then skips to 1972, when one of the grandsons of the original residents returns from the Vietnam War.