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Mangling Mantel

Mangling Mantel

Pioneer Jury, a San Francisco-based tech website, has re-run a piece on Hilary Mantel as a sales phenomenon first published in the New Statesman. The text might have been put through Google translate and then the process reversed but whatever it is, something has happened that has resulted in some magnificently garbled Mantelisms. The Mirror and the Light emerges as The Reflect and the Gentle, Wolf Hall becomes Wolf Corridor and Bring Up the Bodies is transformed into Carry Up the Our bodies. Meanwhile, Mantel’s publisher, Fourth Estate, has been renamed Fourth Property while the “Booker bounce” ­– the surge in sales that traditionally follows a Booker Prize win – is rendered as the “Booker leap”. Who knew Mantel’s serious-minded trilogy could be such a gag-fest?

Margaret Atwood has been doing her bit for humanity, or at least for the bit that reads books. She has been on Twitter merrily tweeting suggestions of books to read during coronavirus lockdown. “OK Twitterpals,” she wrote, “as I crouch in my burrow, what would you like the most? a) comforting book reccos b) plague book reccos c) poetry book reccos d) stupid/weird/mundane things I have done to pass the time, which would have passed anyway. . .” Responding to Mia Farrow’s request for plague literature, Atwood suggested “One of the classic non-fictions is Rats, Lice, and History, by Hans Zinnser. Guns, Germs and Steel also does pandemics, as does 1491: about what the Americas were like before (and during) the wipeout caused by European microbes + viruses”. Poetry fanciers should try In The Lateness of World by Carolyn Forche, while fans of the classics should revisit Jane Austen, Georges Simenon, and Agatha Christie. This particular thread is likely to run and run.

Andrea Levy, the novelist Booker Prize shortlisted for The Long Song in 2010, died of cancer last year aged just 62. She has just been honoured by her home borough of Highbury in London with a commemorative plaque attached to the house where she grew up. As an Islington council official put it: “With this plaque, the borough of her birth celebrates Andrea as one of our most treasured literary heroes. Her words and work will be remembered for generations to come.”

Colm Tóibín, a four-time Booker Prize shortlistee, was recently asked why Ireland has produced so many great writers. His answer hit the nail on the head: “The only way out of poverty was education. And the only way to education was literacy. So literacy became a sort of fetish in poor families. Books, reading, and writing.” That is surely succinct enough to engrave on the hearts of all educators.

The British Book Awards are busy whittling down the nominations in their various categories and several Booker Prize writers and publishers are in the mix. Sandstone Press, publisher of the current International Booker Prize winner Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi is in the running for Small Press of the Year. While Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith and former Booker Prize judge Robert Macfarlane are all through to the nitty gritty stage of the “30 from 30” gong – to find the best prize-winner over the BBA’s 30 years. The announcements are due to be made on 29 June but, given that we live in the age of shutdown, who knows when the winners will be revealed?