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November 13, 2012


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I have that same feeling of inconsistency. It's ok for a writer to have an agenda if I agree with it, but not if I don't? Then again, I think that Benson's agenda is getting at a truth-- as you say the gift of the priesthood, the heroism of the recusants, and the hidden history of Catholic England that I never learned in school. Mantel, on the other hand, I think lets her antipathy to the Church twist history away from the truth. She makes More into a villain and while I'm not really all that familiar with his biography, I do know that he's a saint-- and one that I'm rather drawn to at that-- so it can't help but ring false.

I suppose it comes down to this: if you believe that the Catholic Church is the church Christ founded, then that which slanders it is a bloody lie and that which romanticizes it is getting at a great truth even when it fails in artistry.

In many ways Mantel is a much more skilled and subtle artist than Benson, and yet I like him better because he is honest and true. I can forgive his sentimentality and his narrative slips because he writes out of love for Christ and his Church and his saints and I love them too. Mantel hates them and therefore while I may feel pity for her and of course wish her well and even pray for her, I cannot bring myself to like her very much nor to forgive her for letting that hatred warp her artistic gift into something that conveys a subtle poison.

I missed your post about Mantel; missed it because of a crazy-busy week organizing a doctors' workshop, teaching them how to diagnose and document the scars of torture. So, you know, Yes, it's an evil and a present evil and a horrifically destructive evil. I do think Mantel is a great artist, and her agenda obviously does not bother me - what can I say, if you don't think of More as a saint, then her portrayal makes a lot of sense. But I think on the subject of torture she gets it wrong, not morally but artistically: torture corrupts so absolutely, that Cromwell's portrayal stops making sense to me.

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