Writer’s Desk: Listen to Hilary

Novelist and all-around brilliant prose crafter Hilary Mantel has great advice for writers, here’s a few tastes:

  • Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant.
  • Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.
  • Be aware that anything that appears before “Chapter One” may be skipped. Don’t put your vital clue there.

Anybody who wrote both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies should be listened to.

Readers’ Corner: 3 Hopefully-Great September Books

Since summer is nearly on its way out and everybody is trying to finish up their beach reading—note to self: bring lighter books, both in weight and subject time, next time—it’s time to get on with what’s going to be hitting bookstore display tables in the next few months. Here’s a glance at five September titles that look the most promising:

Sboneclocks-cover1eptember 2

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Random House, $30)

After the historical misfire of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet, Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell might be getting back to what he does best: spinning vast, pointillist sagas that cross space, time, and dimensions without ever being less than precise. This one spans decades and involves a runaway teenager who might be psychic and a secret cabal of “dangerous mystics.” There’s an excerpt of the book here.

 

childrenact1September 9

The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Random House, $25)

Ian McEwan’s last book was 2012’s superb spy story Sweet Tooth. Now he looks to be getting back to the topical territory of novels like SaturdayThe Children Act follows a family court judge who has to decide whether or not to overrule a teenager’s religious decision to forego medical treatment that could save his life.

 

margaretthatcher1September 30

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, $27.99)

Apparently to tide us over until the third volume in her Thomas Cromwell series (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies), Mantel provides this in-the-meantime collection of stories about “dislocation and family fracture, of whimsical infidelities and sudden deaths with sinister causes, [which] brilliantly unsettle the reader in that unmistakably Mantel way.”

Dept. of Literary Oddsmaking: The Man Booker Shortlist

The panel of judges in charge of determining what was truly awesome in literature this year and then awarding it the 2012 Man Booker Prize have announced the six novels that are making the shortlist. They are:

  • The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng
  • Swimming Home, by Deborah Levy
  • Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Lighthouse, by Alison Moore
  • Umbrella, by Will Self
  • Narcopolis, by Jeet Thayil

Last year’s winner was Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, a particularly well-sculpted piece of fiction that was nevertheless several times too anemic in presentation for its own good.

The current bookies’ favorite—since people will, it seems, bet on absolutely anything—to take home the prize is Hilary Mantel’s bloody exciting and really close to perfect Bring Up the Bodies. That might not be entirely fair, since Mantel already took home the prize in 2009 for Wolf Hall, the precursor to Bodies. But nobody ever said literature was anything but a blood sport; albeit one waged in genteel, passive-aggressive fashion.