HILARY MANTEL’S MUCH HYPED TALE
Predictable voices of offense and protest, as if on cue (the publicists scripted this very well) have been raised about Hilary Mantel’s story, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.” See my review of the story:
as well as this in-depth NEW POP LIT examination of the controversy:
The question arises: Are Mantel’s critics practicing censorship? Is this a free speech issue?
IF the amount of free speech one has is judged by the size of the microphone, then Hilary Mantel has an enormous amount of free speech, given that her book is published by not one, but two of the largest book conglomerates on the planet. Her “assassination” story was published by two of the most important newspapers on earth. If free speech is judged by with what power a writer is supported, and how widely her words are circulated, then Hilary Mantel has many times the amount of free speech as the average writer. Is it 1,000 times more? 10,000 times? That’s the way the matter should be honestly judged.
After all, both the HarperCollins and MacMillan book empires by nature “censor” writers, every day. Seeing that Hilary Mantel’s provocative story is shallow and not very interesting, in and of itself, one can conclude that the decisions made by the book giants as to which writers are published and promoted are based as much on politics as on quality.
What’s most visible in this affair is the sad state of literature today. This great writer, Hilary Mantel, selected for massive publicity; the acme of the legacy publishing industry; lacks an artistic conscience. Not only is her story a cheap hit piece—metaphorically and in actuality—it makes no effort to examine the causes and effects of violence in society. The meaningful questions which a work of literature would be expected to address are nowhere to be found. Unlike the literary giants of past days, the Dickenses and Dostoevskys, Dumases, Hugos, and Tolstoys, Hilary Mantel lacks a moral voice. In judging the story, aside from all other considerations, that lack is everything.