Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My sister and I must have looked ludicrous as we whiled the day away sitting on a tree-shaded park bench with our noses buried in books—she in Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in Stephenie Mayer’s Twilight series, and I in Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel Wolf Hall. It didn’t help that each book weighs a ton, or that we both found our respective books so riveting that we had to put off lunch for another hour.

And so on that bench I sat, languidly contemplating whether we can reinvent ourselves the way Hilary Mantel reinvented the first Earl of Essex, Thomas Cromwell. Departing from the conventional portrayal of Thomas Cromwell as a villain and nemesis of Thomas More, Mantel presented him as a captivating hero in the rich Tudor tapestry. The Machiavellian henchman of Henry VIII, Cromwell is revealed to readers as a sympathetic yet sly character, a compelling yet conniving figure. He has that uncanny ability to “arrange his face” according to the occasion. It dawned on me then that although people are inexorably themselves, they can also be so many different things at the same time. Just like every story that can have numerous versions told in so many different ways, a person can collect an indefinite number of selves while remaining his or herself within.

"Suppose within each book there is another book, and within every letter on every page another volume constantly unfolding; but these volumes take no space on the desk. Suppose knowledge could be reduced to a quintessence, held within a picture, a sign, held within a place which is no place. Suppose the human skull were to become capacious, spaces opening inside it, humming chambers like beehives." (Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, 2009)


witsandnuts said...

Oh yeah, I remember that heavy Breaking Dawn book. Although I'm now a much tamed fan, I'm still excited to see the film adaptation. ;)

Anonymous said...

That Cromwell fellow is not liked here in Ireland Angeli. He was a soldier and spent several military seasons killing the Irish. The Irish have not forgotten; apparently.
Cromwell was the guy who, when asked by his lieutenants as to how they should differentiate between protestant and catholic when killing the citizens of the town of Dundalk answered; kill them all, let god sort them out.
He was quite religious you see.

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