Friday, July 23, 2010


I've discovered a pretty good living novelist: Hilary Mantel, possibly Irish originally, now living in England.

I haven't found her latest which may be her greatest, but the one I'm reading (Beyond Black) is about a lady who has some degree of real, non-faked communication with dead people. She can't talk to whomever she wants--it's more true that they bug her whenever they feel like it. Most of them are not very nice, but she conceals that from her customers, who typically pay for some kind of reassuring message. As she says, they weren't nice when they were alive, why would they be nicer once they're dead?

Anyway, I had just come to a piece about dogs when our Westie died.

p. 18: "Now Allison fished around in the front rows for somebody who'd lost a pet and found a woman whose terrier, on an impulse three weeks ago, had dashed out of the front door into the traffic. 'Don't you listen,' she told the woman, 'to people who tell you animals have no souls. They go on in spirit, same as we do.' Animals distressed her; not cats but just dogs: their ownerless whimper as they padded through the afterlife on the trail of their masters."
"Let her think it, that dog and master are together now; let her take comfort, since comfort's what she's paid for. Let her assume that Tiddles and his boss are together in the Beyond. Reunion is seldom so simple; and really it's better for dogs--if people could just grasp it--not to have an owner waiting for them, airside. Without a person to search for, they join up in happy packs, and within a year or two you never hear from them individually: there's just a joyful corporate barking, instead of that lost whine, the sore pads, the disconsolate drooping head of the dog following a fading scent."

The action of the novel includes the time of Princess Diana or Lady Diana's death, and there is some hilarious nasty stuff: she was thick, had bad taste in men, did badly in school except for the cup she won for being kind to her guinea pig. A few days after her death she appears to Allison, and she's already forgotten the names of her sons.

My source for books and authors is now the Spectator in London. Thanks to them I'm reading some Beryl Bainbridge. The Bottle Factory Outing: Brenda has a middle-class English upbringing, such that she can never say what she actually thinks or feels. The only time one can say "No" is when one doesn't mean it. You are hungry, but it is polite to say "No thank you" when offered food. Conversely, you must say "yes" if it is offered after you are full. Patrick the Irishman is attracted to you, but starts to realize she could never live with her hypocrisy or dishonesty, and fact concludes that despite her sexual reserve, she has engaged in some heavy petting, or something, with a man she works with. He might have guessed that in this case, once again, she simply couldn't find a polite way to say "No." Oh, and they have to plot together to dispose of a dead body, but even this doesn't bring them together.

Now I'm on to An Awfully Big Adventure: a teenage girl gets into the theatre in Liverpool--mostly behind the scenes, but with a chance at small parts. This may be modelled on Bainbridge herself.

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