I have a new favorite author.
It's been a very long time since a writer and her work has taken over my entire life. I haven't had a literary crush like this for a very long time.
fyi: crush is a nicer word for obsession.
The most surprising crush of all isn't literary at all. It is Thomas Cromwell. I must read all things Cromwell. Admitting this, all I can think of is David Sexton's article, Every woman adores a fascist - Mantel is no exception.
Perhaps, I "adore" Cromwell's character in the same way I "adore" complex and terrifying historical figures: at a remove, of at least a century. Perhaps, because I hadn't formed a fixed opinion and emotional position on Henry's right hand man. I can assure you, I will not "adore" Robespierre, even if he has a wicked sense of humor, wit, and intelligence, every member of his family died or suffered, he loves his dog, etc. I will understand more of the inner workings of the man, according to Mantel's imagination, but I won't like him.
With a very few exceptions, August will by the month of reading Hilary Mantel. If you haven't read her yet, start with Wolf Hall, and then straight on to Bring Up the Bodies.
Beyond Black - Hilary Mantel
Colette and Alison are unlikely cohorts: one a shy, drab beanpole of an assistant, the other a charismatic, corpulent psychic whose connection to the spiritual world torments her. When they meet at a fair, Alison invites Colette at once to join her on the road as her personal assistant and companion. Troubles spiral out of control when the pair moves to a suburban wasteland in what was once the English countryside. It is not long before the place beyond black threatens to uproot their lives forever. This is Hilary Mantel at her finest--insightful, darkly comic, unorthodox, and thrilling to read.
Eight Months on Ghazzah Street - Hilary Mantel
When Frances Shore moves to Saudi Arabia, she settles in a nondescript sublet, sure that common sense and an open mind will serve her well with her Muslim neighbors. But in the dim, airless flat, Frances spends lonely days writing in her diary, hearing the sounds of sobs through the pipes from the floor above, and seeing the flitting shadows of men on the stairwell. It’s all in her imagination, she’s told by her neighbors; the upstairs flat is empty, no one uses the roof. But Frances knows otherwise, and day by day, her sense of foreboding grows even as her sense of herself begins to disintegrate.
A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel
It is 1789, and three young provincials have come to Paris to make their way. Georges-Jacques Danton, an ambitious young lawyer, is energetic, pragmatic, debt-ridden--and hugely but erotically ugly. Maximilien Robespierre, also a lawyer, is slight, diligent, and terrified of violence. His dearest friend, Camille Desmoulins, is a conspirator and pamphleteer of genius. A charming gadfly, erratic and untrustworthy, bisexual and beautiful, Camille is obsessed by one woman and engaged to marry another, her daughter. In the swells of revolution, they each taste the addictive delights of power, and the price that must be paid for it.
Fludd - Hilary Mantel
One dark and stormy night in 1956, a stranger named Fludd mysteriously turns up in the dismal village of Fetherhoughton. He is the curate sent by the bishop to assist Father Angwin-or is he? In the most unlikely of places, a superstitious town that understands little of romance or sentimentality, where bad blood between neighbors is ancient and impenetrable, miracles begin to bloom. No matter how copiously Father Angwin drinks while he confesses his broken faith, the level of the bottle does not drop. Although Fludd does not appear to be eating, the food on his plate disappears. Fludd becomes lover, gravedigger, and savior, transforming his dull office into a golden regency of decision, unashamed sensation, and unprecedented action. Knitting together the miraculous and the mundane, the dreadful and the ludicrous, Fludd is a tale of alchemy and transformation told with astonishing art, insight, humor, and wit.
Learning to Talk - Hilary Mantel
In the wake of Hilary Mantel's captivating memoir, 'Giving Up the Ghost', this collection of loosely autobiographical stories locates the transforming moments of a haunted childhood. This sharp, funny collection of stories drawn from life begins in the 1950s in an insular northern village 'scoured by bitter winds and rough gossip tongues.' For the child narrator, the only way to survive is to get up, get on, get out. In 'King Billy is a Gentleman', the child must come to terms with the loss of a father and the puzzle of a fading Irish heritage. 'Curved Is the Line of Beauty' is a story of friendship, faith and a near-disaster in a scrap-yard. The title story sees our narrator ironing out her northern vowels with the help of an ex-actress with one lung and a Manchester accent. In 'Third Floor Rising', she watches, dazzled, as her mother carves out a stylish new identity. With a deceptively light touch, Mantel locates the transforming moments of a haunted childhood.
Giving Up the Ghost - Hilary Mantel
As she approaches midlife, Mantel applies her beautiful prose and expansive vocabulary to a somewhat meandering memoir. The English author of eight novels (The Giant, O'Brien; Eight Months on Ghazzah Street; etc.) is "writing in order to take charge of the story of my childhood and my childlessness; and in order to locate myself... between the lines where the ghosts of meaning are." Among the book's themes are ghosts and illness, both of which Mantel has much experience with. She expends many pages on her earliest years, and then on medical treatments in her 20s, but skips other decades almost entirely as she brings readers up to the present. At age seven she senses a horrifying creature in the garden, which as a Catholic she concludes is the devil; later, houses she lives in have "minor poltergeists." The first and foremost ghost, though, is the baby she will never have. By 20, Mantel is in constant pain from endometriosis, and at 27, after years of misdiagnosis and botched treatment, she has an operation that ends her fertility. Her pains come back, she has thyroid problems and drug treatments cause her body to balloon; she describes these ordeals with remarkably wry detachment. Fans of Mantel's critically acclaimed novels may enjoy the memoir as insight into her world. Often, though, all the fine detail that in another work would flesh out a plot-such as embroidery silk "the scarlet shade of the tip of butterflies' wings"-has nowhere to go.
Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister - Robert Hutchinson
The son of a brewer, Thomas Cromwell rose from obscurity to become the confidant of the King and one of the most influ ential men in British history. Cromwell drafted the law that allowed Henry VIII to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn, setting into motion the brutal Pro testant Reformation. Over the course of his career, Cromwell amassed a fortune through bribery and theft, and created many enemies along the way. His fall was spectacular—beheaded out side the Tower of London, his boiled head was placed on a spike above the London Bridge. Rich in incident and colorful detail, this is narrative history at its finest.
Kings of the Earth - Jon Clinch
Following up Finn, his much-heralded and prize-winning debut whose voice evoked “the mythic styles of his literary predecessors . . . William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy and Edward P. Jones” (San Francisco Chronicle), Jon Clinch returns with Kings of the Earth, a powerful and haunting story of life, death, and family in rural America. The edge of civilization is closer than we think. It’s as close as a primitive farm on the margins of an upstate New York town, where the three Proctor brothers live together in a kind of crumbling stasis. They linger like creatures from an older, wilder, and far less forgiving world—until one of them dies in his sleep and the other two are suspected of murder. Told in a chorus of voices that span a generation, Kings of the Earth examines the bonds of family and blood, faith and suspicion, that link not just the brothers but their entire community. Vernon, the oldest of the Proctors, is reduced by work and illness to a shambling shadow of himself. Feebleminded Audie lingers by his side, needy and unknowable. And Creed, the youngest of the three and the only one to have seen anything of the world (courtesy of the U.S. Army), struggles with impulses and accusations beyond his understanding. We also meet Del Graham, a state trooper torn between his urge to understand the brothers and his desire for justice; Preston Hatch, a kindhearted and resourceful neighbor who’s spent his life protecting the three men from themselves; the brothers’ only sister, Donna, who managed to cut herself loose from the family but is then drawn back; and a host of other living, breathing characters whose voices emerge to shape this deeply intimate saga of the human condition at its limits.
Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert - Terry Tempest Williams
The beloved author of Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams is one of the country’s most eloquent and imaginative writers. The desert is her blood. In this potent collage of stories, essays, and testimony, Red makes a stirring case for the preservation of America’s Redrock Wilderness in the canyon country of southern Utah. As passionate as she is persuasive, Williams writes lyrically about the desert’s power and vulnerability, describing wonders that range from an ancient Puebloan sash of macaw feathers found in Canyonlands National Park to the desert tortoise–an animal that can “teach us the slow art of revolutionary patience” as it extends our notion of kinship with all life. She examines the civil war being waged in the West today over public and private uses of land–an issue that divides even her own family. With grace, humor, and compassionate intelligence, Williams reminds us that the preservation of wildness is not simply a political process but a spiritual one.
Learning to Love You More - Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July
In a world obsessed with 'reality' programming, the collaborative public art project known as "Learning To Love You More" offers a refreshing take on how people think, act and love. Created by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher, the web-based project, begun in 2002, offers more than sixty 'assignments' that can be completed by anyone: 'Write the phone conversation you wish you could have'; 'Draw a constellation from someone's freckles'; 'Take a flash photo under your bed.' Completed assignments are posted on the web site; to date, more than 5,000 people have participated - artists and non-artists of all ages, from Tokyo to Tel Aviv. July and Fletcher have curated a selection of the most memorable submissions - some moving, others hilarious and oddly brilliant, to create a pop culture collage that tells a larger story about life today. The result is an engaging, heartwarming, idea sparking book sure to inspire, teach, and entertain. Her film "Me And You And Everyone We Know" (Film Four) was a cult hit in 2005 - it won 15 Awards including the Golden Camera at Cannes and the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Sundance film festival.
It Chooses You - Miranda July
In the summer of 2009, Miranda July was struggling to finish writing the screenplay for her much-anticipated second film. During her increasingly long lunch breaks, she began to obsessively read the PennySaver, the iconic classifieds booklet that reached everywhere and seemed to come from nowhere. Who was the person selling the “Large leather Jacket, $10”? It seemed important to find out—or at least it was a great distraction from the screenplay. Accompanied by photographer Brigitte Sire, July crisscrossed Los Angeles to meet a random selection of PennySaver sellers, glimpsing thirteen surprisingly moving and profoundly specific realities, along the way shaping her film, and herself, in unexpected ways. Elegantly blending narrative, interviews, and photographs with July’s off-kilter honesty and deadpan humor, this is a story of procrastination and inspiration, isolation and connection, and grabbing hold of the invisible world.
Eeeee Eee Eeee - Tao Lin
Confused yet intelligent animals attempt to interact with confused yet intelligent humans, resulting in the death of Elijah Wood, Salman Rushdie, and Wong Kar-Wai; the destruction of a Domino's Pizza delivery car in Orlando; and a vegan dinner at a sushi restaurant in Manhattan attended by a dolphin, a bear, a moose, an alien, three humans, and the President of the United States of America, who lectures on the arbitrary nature of consciousness, truth, and the universe before getting drunk and playing poker.