One Hundred Diaries is a map with links to a selection of a hundred short personal essays that have appeared in The London Review of Books throughout the years. The essays revolve around a place somewhere in the world , including Neal Ascherson writing about Ilullilat in Greenland, Jenny Diski writing about Christchurch in New Zealand, Perry Anderson writing about Nantes in France, Rebecca Solnit writing about New Orleans in the US, Hilary Mantel writing about Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Anneke van Woudenberg writing about Kilo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"If Tudor is measured on a scale, and scored by size of beard, love of jousting and trouble with wives, Charles Brandon would come near the top, second only to the king he served. ... [His] power as a court favourite endured till death removed him in 1545. A long run, on ground slippery with blood: how did Charles do it?" Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, reviews Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend for the London Review of Books.
'Beneath those houses,' the butler said, 'you should see what goes on. No one suspects the half of it. The whole earth is dug out. Spaciousness beneath. The panic room is seven times the size of this one. The whole of London can fall down around them and yet their freezer is fully stocked. All showers are multi-jet steam cabinets, plus the kitchen has coffee machine built in, ice machine, temperature-controlled cabinet for wine storage, sous vide machine with vacuum sealer, and an air filtration system that is suitable for allergy sufferers.' [TW: rape]
Hilary Mantel on St. Gemma Galgani, St. Therese of Lisieux, and "holy" and secular anorexia, stigmata, and hysteria. "We can see, as ‘Catholic neurologists’ of the time did, that Gemma’s symptoms are a representational strategy. They are an art form and a highly successful one; they are also (possibly) the product of mental pain and distress turned into physical symptoms. . . . When we think of young adults in the West, driven by secular demons of unknown provenance to starve and purge themselves, and to pierce and slash their flesh, we wonder uneasily if she is our sister under the skin." (warning: gruesome) [more inside]
After an aborted exclusive deal with the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian has published the new short story from Hilary Mantel. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983
Royal Bodies by Hilary Mantel
"I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting?"
Hilary Mantel's Diary
Three or four nights after surgery – when, in the words of the staff, I have ‘mobilised’ – I come out of the bathroom and spot a circus strongman squatting on my bed. He sees me too; from beneath his shaggy brow he rolls a liquid eye. Brown-skinned, naked except for the tattered hide of some endangered species, he is bouncing on his heels and smoking furiously without taking the cigarette from his lips: puff, bounce, puff, bounce. What rubbish, I think, actually shouting at myself, but silently. This is a no-smoking hospital. It is impossible this man would be allowed in, to behave as he does. Therefore he’s not real, and if he’s not real I can take his space. As I get into bed beside him, the strongman vanishes. I pick up my diary and record him: was there, isn’t any more.
"On a particular night in October, you’ve got your nose ahead of J.M. Coetzee." Hilary Mantel writes about winning (and, previously, not winning) the Man Booker prize. Her victory has changed History Today's attitudes to historical fiction, it seems. But not Antony Beevor's.
In How to Write a Great Novel authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Hilary Mantel, Orhan Pamuk, Junot Díaz and Margaret Atwood speak about their writing process. If you want your thoughts on writing in a longer format, you could do a lot worse than The New York Times' Writers on Writing series, which features short essays by, for example, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Louise Erdrich and Annie Proulx. Should you thirst for meditations longer yet, Barbara Demarco-Barrett has on her Writers on Writing radio show interviewed a boatload of authors and it is available as a podcast [iTunes link]