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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

October 2009, no. 315

'Mediterranean Man: Journeys with Alan Moorehead' by Ann Moyal

There is a timeless quality about some Australian authors that causes one to applaud when discerning publishers revive their work for new generations of readers. Wakefield Press’s reissue of Alan Moorehead’s The Villa Diana, first published in 1951, presents this fecund author’s book of essays, now subtitled ‘Travels in Post-war Italy’ ($24.95 pb, 224 pp, 9781862548459). It provides a neat introduction to Moorehead’s famous camera-like eye and his beguiling prose, which, as one commentator put it, offers ‘a long conversation that you wish would never end’.

From the Archive

December 2014, no. 367

Max Sipowicz reviews 'Zombies' by Jennifer Rutherford

In recent times the figure of the zombie has pervaded modern culture. Despite their origins as macabre creatures from Haitian myths, and then their modern cultural origins in B-grade horror films, zombies have established themselves as an important element of modern mythology. Jennifer Rutherford’s book aims to explore the reasons for our society’s obsession with these decaying entities.

From the Archive

July–August 2010, no. 323

Home Truth edited by Carmel Bird

We are often far / From home in a dark town’ writes Charlie Smith in his poem ‘The Meaning of Birds’. Home Truth explores dark towns both literal and figurative. The pieces in any anthology are jigsaw-like, forming an overarching image. In this case, it is a sense of home as an entity most powerfully felt in exile; the place we look to from our darkest places. In her perceptive essay, Carmel Bird, scrutinising her immediate thoughts about home, finds in them much that looks like ‘a series of clichés and stereotypes’. Concepts of home, she suggests, may be ‘tinged with the glow of nostalgia, shadowed by poignant reminders of the ideal past’. If this is the face of the anthology’s jigsaw, it proves palimpsestic. Its deeper vision is the idea of resilience and of making a home from a position of exile.