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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

March 2004, no. 259

Modern Japanese Culture: The insider view by Leith Morton

Modern Japanese Culture – what a seductive title! It evokes images of a fast-paced, technologically advanced nation with deep traditions reinventing itself as a post-industrial society with a rich culture. We immediately think of Kurosawa’s epic films, manga comics and anime, contemporary ceramics, video games, Issey Miyake’s extravaganzas, the sublime minimalism of Ando Tadao’s architecture, and the photography of Ishida Kiichiro, currently on display at the Museum of Sydney.

From the Archive

August 1985, no. 73

Illywhacker by Peter Carey

An Illywhacker, Peter Carey reminds us at the start of his latest and by far his longest novel, is a trickster or spieler. Wilkes cites it in Kylie Tennant’s famous novel of 1941, The Battlers. The other epigraph to the novel is also preoccupied with deception and is familiar to anyone who knows Carey’s work: Brian Kiernan used it as the title of his anthology of new Australian short story writers, The Most Beautiful Lies, an anthology in which Carey himself was represented: It is from Mark Twain and reads in part: ‘Australian history … does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies; and all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises and adventures, the incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened.’

From the Archive

September 2001, no. 234

Jody Fickes Shapiro reviews 4 books

The picture book format is the workhorse of children’s literature. It is expected to entertain and enlighten audiences ranging from infants and toddlers to young adults. Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the quintessential picture book for very young readers, introduces some basic concepts through simple text and colourful collage. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Isobelle Carmody’s fantasy novel, Dreamwalker, published earlier this year with illustrations and design by graphic artist Steven Woolman, has sophisticated teen appeal.