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]