Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wolf Hall

Since it's Sunday evening and the teenager is cooking, and since our current read is Wolf Hall, I thought I'd take a moment to mention this article, mentioned earlier in the month by Rod Dreher.  You may already have seen it (it's garnered seven hundred-odd comments on the Guardian site) but it's jolly good.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/may/16/catholic-church-respectable-hilary-mantel

I really am stink at html, so you'll have to cut and paste, if you're interested.




8 comments:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

The link had me at the word "respectable." =P I can't stand Catholics who work in the media to make us look more "respectable."

Or perhaps I just can't stand their work. I'm sure they're lovely people who aren't at all respectable in real life.

Emily J. said...

I never did get around to reading Wolf Hall - but I just saw Anonymous, more Tudor revisionist history. It's got so many plot convolutions, it's ridiculous - I don't think I could have followed them all even if I didn't fall asleep - but you've got to love the costuming.

But why I'm really commenting is because I just read Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones, your fellow New Zealander, Otepoti. Loved it.

Otepoti said...

Hi,Emily,

Hope everything's well with you.

I'm hotfooting it through "Wolf Hall" at the moment, so I missed your comment.

I haven't read "Mister Pip", though there's a copy in the house - a Christmas gift abandoned by a son who spends a lot of time at sea, and even on land, doesn't have much storage space.

When I glanced at MP a while ago, I made the snap judgment that the premise is the same as Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible", ie, the consequence of out-of-place cultural artefacts, and decided not to read it.

I'll retract, and give it a fair shake, if you tell me a bit more about why you liked it.


Cheers

Otepoti said...

Hi,Emily,

Hope everything's well with you.

I'm hotfooting it through "Wolf Hall" at the moment, so I missed your comment.

I haven't read "Mister Pip", though there's a copy in the house - a Christmas gift abandoned by a son who spends a lot of time at sea, and even on land, doesn't have much storage space.

When I glanced at MP a while ago, I made the snap judgment that the premise is the same as Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible", ie, the consequence of out-of-place cultural artefacts, and decided not to read it.

I'll retract, and give it a fair shake, if you tell me a bit more about why you liked it.


Cheers

Otepoti said...

Emily,

Here is a Radio New Zealand programme where Lloyd Jones talks about his connection with Bougainville. I don't know how long it will be available for, so get it while it's hot, if you're interested.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2522232/eight-months-to-mars-lloyd-jones

This programme is a sort of Desert Island Discs, if you're wondering what Mars has to do with Bougainville.

I must have another go at that book.

Best

Emily J. said...

Otepoti- I just clicked over and saw your remarks, but I wanted to listened to the radio show before responding. Lovely accents. The comparison to "Poisonwood Bible" is interesting. It's been a long time since I read that, and I remember being put off by it, but I can't remember why, except that it's probably the same reason why I'm put off by what I've read by Kingsolver lately. She's so convinced she's right about everything. Much of the time I agree she is right, but her tone sometimes makes me childishly want to do the opposite of what she says.

Anyway, PB did not cross my mind at all while reading Mister Pip. It's not about white colonization, at heart. There is only one white person on the island. He reads the school children Great Expectations, which becomes a tonic for the villagers who are subjected to violence by warring factions of native islanders. The main character, Matilda, begins to live through the story and the community draws together to protect each other and Mr. Watts, the teacher. Matilda's mother is suspicious of the story, and fearful of imagination. I saw a bit of myself in her. Here I have loved all these books, but I am afraid of letting my kids read some of them because of the gray areas. Will they absorb the good, like Matilda? (not I worry about them reading Dickens) Matilda is changed by the story, apparently in a good way, but in a way her mother's fears come true.

Anyway, I liked the story primarily because it's a book about the power of stories. And I liked the setting, since we're in the Pacific now. And I liked the characters, especially the pathetic Mr. Watts, who becomes legendary, even though he's very ordinary.

Now I should ask whether I should seek out Wolf Hall, or move on to something else? I'm really meaning to reread Great Expectations, but have been distracted by other juvenile literature, and by summer vacation activities.

Otepoti said...

Hi, Emily,

I'm sorry to tell you that I don't have a typical NZ accent. Since I was born closer to the First World War than to the present day, the cultural cringe of the time meant elocution lessons. The result is almost British RP. I wuz robbed.

I hacked my way to the end of "Wolf Hall", but with little enjoyment and no lasting benefit. Seldom has so much carefully gleaned period detail - I half expected to find greasy Joan keeling a pot in the corner - been put to such deadening effect.

In my view, the whole enterprise of fictionalizing biography adds little value, except to tempt a lazy reader with narrative flow, and it also strikes me as disingenuous. With the biography, you know where you are; with fictionalization, you can never be sure.

Mantel's thrust is the preferability of doubt over conviction. Cromwell does point out that England is full of Thomases.

Melanie B said...

I'm rather late to the conversation; but I just got Wolf Hall from the library the other day and I'm about halfway through. I went into the book not knowing anything about it and thus with no preconceptions. Although I started off really enjoying the style and the characters, I'm gradually more and more put off by the anti-Catholic bent. Mantel seems bent on assassinating Thomas More's character. I keep thinking: "Is there any historical basis for putting those words into More's mouth or ascribing those actions and attitudes to him?" Her portrayal seems downright slanderous. And I'm getting tired of every single Catholic priest being a hypocrite. And all the slams against nuns and monks and religious life. Some of it is attributable to the character of Thomas Cromwell and his particular bent and his perceptions; but not all. Much of it is presented by the narrative as objective reality and that's where the novel is starting to really grate. I'm still kind of curious to see where she's going with the story; but I'm not sure whether that curiosity is going to keep me going to the end of the novel and if it does whether I will feel like I've wasted my time in getting there.


But I did thoroughly enjoy Mister Pip on Emily's recommendation. I was really expecting some dreary postcolonial critique of Western Imperialism along the lines of Wide Sargasso Sea, a novel that I could not brig myself to read past the first few pages. I was pleasantly surprised how the novel was much more about the character's inward journey and the ways in which reading provides both an escape and a bridge.