Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day 11

Discoveries aplenty! Let us delve into them. Starting with my favourite...

Reports of strange Book Festival related dreams have been cropping up all over the place. We know that Chika Unigwe had a dream before the Writers' Conference that Woody Allen came to tell her that all writers were rule-breakers, but you probably didn't know that at least two audience members have dreamed that the Gruffalo is the secret brains behind the Book Festival.

Additionally, one staff member had a dream that the entire front row of seats in the Main Theatre had been put in the wrong way round, and I myself had a dream that the Front of House staff had been called up to be told about someone's disability requirement, which was that they were lonely and needed a hug before each event. Someone also mentioned that they fell asleep in Charlotte Square Gardens and was allegedly woken up by Vimes from Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld'. Were they sure that was a dream? You never know with the Book Festival.

Rubbing shoulders with your heroes at the front of a signing queue is a real highlight for many Book Festival visitors – and it can make your career. Once upon a time, theatre director David Johnstone was queuing to have his book signed by Ben Okri (left). David mentioned that he was a director, and Ben scribbled his phone number beneath his autograph. Now David is directing the theatre adaption of Ben Okri's 'The Comic Destiny'.

Today in his event, Antony Beevor said: “'I'm convinced the US was right to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. A juicily controversial assertion! When taken out of context. So I asked Antony to contextualise it, and he kindly agreed, explaining that without the bombings significantly more causalities would have been caused by war and starvation in Japan.

John Burnside has written and spoken about wind turbines and their effects, and, as someone who knows a great deal about them, he adds his knowledge to the relevant Wikipedia pages – only for his edits to be immediately removed by the organisations that own the turbines.

Official yurt doodler Mo bagged her first posed Book Festival models. She usually goes for candid sketches, but today both China Miéville and Ewan Morrison (left) sat for her. And they didn't wriggle.

Speaking of China and Ewan, the last of the Book Festival's Writers' Conferences was today. It was about the future of the novel, and sparked as much passion as the Conference did on previous days. (And you can re-live those days on the Writers' Conference website.)

While the Writers' Conference as a quintet of events provoked mostly agreement, a remark that came up time and time again was that rarely were any clear conclusions made. But the idea of concluding any discussion on the very free and very profound topic of literature is a distressing one.

If you love to debate (or, as your friends and family call it, “bicker”), you'll know that the very act of debate is intrinsically satisfying, and is not a means to an end at all. I fear the people who crave full stops and neatly-tied loose ends for the Writers' Conference are very sensible and tidy people. And none of my favourite writers are sensible or tidy.

If the Writers' Conference has left you utterly buzzing, but without a sense of resolution, then I believe it has done its job beautifully.

Most of the feedback on the Writers' Conference was as erudite as the writers themselves, but in my opinion the most expressive and telling feedback was the far less articulate stuff to be overheard while leaving the Writers' Conference.

At one point I heard: “Jackie Kay is so completely... she's just so completely... you know?” and “Ben Okri has this way of speaking, it's just... actually, I don't know what it is... but wow...” and “Ewan Morrison does this amazing thing when he makes a point; he sort of... he just... he kind of just...” and “how does China Miéville actually be like that? I can't even... I can't begin to...” and “Chika Unigwe, she's just so... so... she's just so...”

I know exactly what they mean.

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