Monday, May 04, 2009

Sentences inspire me, or, The quickest of posts

I'll have more to say about Hilary Mantel's new novel about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, Wolf Hall (2009) in the coming days, but right now I feel it's worth sharing the following couple of sentences. As you read, pretend they're poetry--listen to them:
He reads. Clerke and Sumner are dead. The cardinal should be told, the writer says. Having no other secure place, the Dean saw fit to shut them in the college cellars, the deep cold cellars intended for storing fish. Even in that silent place, secret, icy, the summer plague sought them out. They died in the dark and without a priest.
Each of those sentences moves along as if dancing on the verge of being truly metrical, its beats--"the Dean saw fit to shut"--falling just right; their consonance and assonance only adding to the achievement, those "deep cold cellars intended for storing fish". {Though now that I think of it, "designed" would fit far better than "intended," wouldn't it?}

Mantel, though never shedding the basic structure of what we generally accept as the prose of the realist novel, again and again in Wolf Hall raises her language to this sort of pitch; I'm 150 pages in, and it's hard to imagine that she could go so wrong from here as to keep this from being the crowning achievement of her career thus far.

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