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November 16, 2009

On Hilary Mantel and Fludd etc.

I’m currently reading Fludd by Hilary Mantel, as an experiment in reading books by Hilary Mantel I have no desire to read. Fludd, at 186 pages, you see, is much less an investment than Wolf Hall‘s terrifying 650. I still have no desire to read Wolf Hall either, but for various reasons have been possessed to buy it. And now I’m enjoying Fludd so immensely, that I feel enjoying Wolf Hall could be less unlikely than I previously thought.

All this leading to two points.

1) Hilary Mantel is absolutely scathing in this book. And I’m reminded of a writing teacher who once criticized a story of mine for lack of sympathy toward the idiots within it, and so I rewrote these idiots with a more human touch. With hearts in their depths. But now I kind of wish I hadn’t. Though Hilary Mantel is a far better writer than I could ever hope to be, I think that some meanness is delicious, and not all fictional characters need hearts in their depths. I just need to learn to be mean more intelligently.

2) Her range! Fludd is more like Beyond Black than any of her others I’ve read (and I’d term these “supernatural realism). Could these possibly be by the same writer who wrote historical epics Wolf Hall and A Place of Greater Safety? The brutally black comedy Every Day is Mother’s Day? The more conventional (but no less brilliant) novels Eight Months of Ghazzah Street, A Change of Climate and An Experiment in Love? I am becoming more and more unafraid to read Wolf Hall, because I’ve never met a Hilary Mantel novel that wasn’t amazing.

Which makes me think of Margaret Atwood, and Doris Lessing too– writers who’ve branched out in unimaginable ways. Challenging their readers’ sensibilities, exploring the limits of genre, breaking the mold again and again. Seems like these are writers to whom “the novel” is a brand new blank white page, every time they sit down to write one.

2 thoughts on “On Hilary Mantel and Fludd etc.”

  1. Panic says:

    If it helps, I'm 200pgs into Wolf Hall and enjoying it quite a lot.

  2. Kerry says:

    It helps a great deal. Thanks.

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