Why Hilary Mantel's controversial short story about an imagined assassination of the former prime minister misunderstands the Iron Lady.
There is no lower form of an English cultural event than a manufactured literary scandal. For a few blissful months, it seemed as though the seasonal eruption of belletristic bellyaching had ended. Martin Amis, after all, had moved to Brooklyn Heights. Salman Rushdie's references to himself in the third person were two long years ago, and Zoë Heller has moved on from the trauma of having read it. Even the news of Russell Brand's pop-Maoist tract, in which the recovering heroin addict explains how to "bring down the government and establish a personal and global utopia" in a "simple, accessible book," is not due out for a few more days, was only expected to kick up a modest fuss with the rumors that it was ghostwritten by recovering plagiarist Johann Hari. You might say it was a rather idyllic summer for English letters; that is, until Hilary Mantel set off an early chill to autumn.