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Thursday, July 6, 2023

'That vicarious experience of history'


“Writers displace their anxiety on to the tools of the trade. It's better to say that you haven't got the right pencil than to say you can't write, or to blame your computer for losing your chapter than face up to your feeling that it's better lost.” Hilary Mantel

Born on this date in 1952, Mantel was the first woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize twice – for the first two novels in her fictional trilogy of Thomas Cromwell’s rise and fall in the court of Henry VIII.  Wolf Hall won a basket of awards and was adapted to a stage play and a BBC Masterpiece Theater production. 

Bring Up the Bodies, was a multiple writing award-winner and also a BBC show.  And while not a Booker winner, the third installment, The Mirror and the Light, was honored with other awards and showcased Mantel’s ability to reach readers of all ages.  History offers us vicarious experience,” she said.   “(And) it allows the youngest student to possess the ground equally with his (or her) elders.”         

Mantel, who died from a stroke in 2022, established herself as a great historical writer as well as a great biographer and autobiographer with many of her tales based on her own experiences, including the terrific Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, set in Saudi Arabia.

“If you get stuck (in your writing), get away from your desk," Mantel advised.  "Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise.  Whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem.  Don't make telephone calls or go to a party; (because) if you do, other people's words will pour in where your own lost words should be.”

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