OR, THE NARCISSISM OF THE ESTABLISHMENT WRITER
The literary establishment in both the United Kingdom (united a while longer) and New York is making noise about a story by one of their “best,” Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel. The story is “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.”
This interested me, because a couple months ago I produced my latest ebook, a short novella titled Assassination of X. Unlike Mantel, I don’t name my victim, a U.S. senator. My story is also written in a completely different style from Mantel’s, who can write only in the standard status quo literary fashion. You can read her tale here:
The story is not really about Margaret Thatcher, but Hilary Mantel. Which is why she has to name Thatcher—it’s a way to draw attention to herself and her politically-correct attitude. It’s a species of exhibitionism. “Look at me!” Mantel is demonstrating how much she’s always hated Thatcher—used as a symbol—and so, this demonstrates to the intellectual elite her credentials as one of them. The story is merely the excuse used to make the demonstration. It might as well be a painting; Margaret Thatcher with a sour expression on her face; examples of her social crimes depicted behind her. Waiting assassin off to the side.
The story Mantel tells is ridiculous. It’s a farce. Hilary Mantel doesn’t have a clue how such a crime would be done; or what an actual assassin would be like.
Mantel introduces the story with endless description—paragraphs full of it—as if to ensure that all but the proper “literary” audience will lose interest. This completed, the rest is conversation between a Hilary Mantel stand-in and the assassin. All very British and ludicrous. The assassin, about to commit the crime of the century, has scant focus. It’s all very casual. Make the tea, someone. “I’ll mind the gun.” (Note to Mantel: rifle.)
The narrator—these stories are almost always first person; they can only be so because the solipsistic viewpoint is all—has, like Hilary Mantel, not a clue about the weapon used, preparation needed, and such. The assassin is no professional, nor a credible facsimile of a good amateur. Instead, he’s popped whole out of her imagination, a man of stupidity and carelessness, which allows the narrator to engage with him in what might be the most insipid conversation ever—again, given the gravity of the event.
Hilary Mantel takes a pop premise and turns it into literary idiocy. Into cutesiness. This at a time when real terrorists are loose in the world; actors of serious business. With, instead of British casualness, deadly purpose. Unclownish focus. An actual assassin would dispose of the talkative Hilary Mantel stand-in within five seconds—and save himself from her self-centered conversation and precious arrogance.
The story can’t be taken seriously and isn’t meant to be taken seriously. It has no connection to reality. It serves as a way for Mantel to make a connection to the like-minded. As such, though it’s “well-written” by literary standards, it’s not literature. It asks no questions. It challenges no one to re-examine the world or themself. There are no shadings or depths to the story. It’s affirmation, not art.
Of course, I’m biased. Through a new website, at which I’m co-editor (www.newpoplit.com), I’m promoting a style of writing opposed to that of a Hilary Mantel. It’s a different way of looking at the short story art, and at the world.
In my own tale I seek to plunge the reader into the reality of a shocking event. The world itself is the focus—and not the vapid spaces of a privileged author’s head. You can read my modernist pop tale via Kindle or Nook Books. Here’s an Amazon link to it:
I invite you to read both stories and judge the difference.