Holding a dark mirror to our troubled times
Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
'Bring Up The Bodies', by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate), R195
THE sequel to her 2009 Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, this dense, detailed account of the arrest, trial and execution for treason of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, is the second instalment in Mantel's Tudor trilogy. It is powerful, dramatic historic fiction and, as they say, holds up a dark mirror to our troubled times.
SUNDAY Times Literary Award nominee Henriette Rose-Innes made some interesting points about local fiction in Sunday's newspaper: "The future of serious fiction feels so tenuous," she fretted.
"I worry that, without more structural support for authors in South Africa, the people who continue to write will be the ones who, one way or another, can afford to."
Local writers like Rose-Innes don't get rich from their work. Neither do their publishers. But the latter do, however, make money with books like former Bok coach Peter de Villiers' ghost-written memoir, Politically Incorrect (Zebra), which is getting a whack of publicity due to supposed revelations about sex tapes, trysts in car parks and various other lurid, non-rugby related issues.
We should welcome such fare. They, after all, bankroll the "serious" books. Perhaps our literary heroes should spend more time with the flannelled fools and muddied oafs, with a view to whacking out an autobiography or two as a nest egg.
A word of warning, though. Pick a subject who has supposedly done something quite untoward off the field. Victor Matfield's My Journey has, sales-wise, been a bit of a non-starter for the simple reason that there was nothing controversial about Matfield. Excellent player, but no dirt on the man at all.
THE appeal of Paul French's wonderful true crime whodunnit, Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Viking), is its setting. While the killing, in 1937, of Pamela Werner, the 19-year-old daughter of a British consular judge, was horrific enough - her skull had been crushed, her face and body stabbed hundreds of times, her heart, bladder, kidneys and liver all removed, but there was no blood where her body was found - it is the city that gives the book its oomph.
Beijing (Peking) was then on the brink of momentous change. The Japanese army was at the city gates, authority was breaking down, and the ex-pat European community were being increasingly marginalised. Werner's murder provided a welcome diversion. Location, location.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"I WANT to write from the point of view of someone who knows something but not everything. And who's willing to admit he has no idea what the hell malolactic fermentation is." - The Juice: Vinous Veritas, by Jay McInerney (Bloomsbury)