Our brilliant festival team was: Jay Armstrong, Sarah Purnell, Annie Harrison, Anna Cathenka, Aysha Bryant, Shannan Sterne, Sarah Cave, Emma Gibbs, Paige Davis and David Brady. Thanks also to Sorrel Watson for her interview.
What is fiction for? For some of us the instant answer might be escapism, relaxation, or even illumination. But for bibliophile Ella Berthoud reading is therapy for life issues. Berthoud boldly believes that prescribing literature can cure almost anything, from a ‘broken leg’ to ‘murderous thoughts’, as she explains in her book The Novel Cure.
John Crace is a feature writer for the Guardian, known for his Digested Reads, in which the great and popular novels of the late 20th and early 21st century are reduced to 700 words or fewer – most recently Kevin Pieterson’s autobiography and Stephen Fry’s latest tome. He is also a celebrated humorist novelist.
Crace and Berthoud opened the talk by asking the big question: “What is fiction for?”. Crace humorously responded that for those in the audience leaving early, the answer is: “We don’t know.” Continue reading →
I was excited to be covering Lavinia Greenlaw’s reading at this weekend’s North Cornwall Book Festival. Her poetry is beautiful. Last Autumn I discovered her smooth, complex verse in a volume that put Greenlaw’s poetry side by side with the journals of William Morris during his travels in Iceland.
There is a comfortable, gentle atmosphere in the Betjeman Marquee where Greenlaw is due to speak. People are holding copies of her new collection, A Double Sorrow, Troilus and Criseyde, a response and a rewriting of Chaucer’s famous work. The books re-emerge later in the bookshop during a signing session.
Greenlaw reads a selection of her Chaucer-inspired poems. She tells the audience that rather than translating Chaucer’s (or Boccacio’s) story she wanted to “clean out the language.” Her verses are clean and precise and flow musically. Although the book is in rhyme royal seven-line verse, from page to page, the language lilts effortlessly. Continue reading →
When we switch on the television, we often see countries such as Palestine, Yemen and Egypt associated with violence. The pictures broadcast on the news often focus on men with guns, women screaming, babies crying. Lots of dust. Lots of blood.
But today’s Textales: If Cloth Could Talk event with Dr Jenny Balfour challenged you to consider other images too. Dr Balfour talked about how beautiful she found these countries now “shredded with war” when she encountered them 20-30 years ago.
“ISIS all started as babies,” said Dr Balfour. “It really tortures me how people become able to chop people’s heads off.” She reminded us that these countries have a rich and intricate culture in the form of textiles. Continue reading →
It was a full house (or marquee even) and the crowds were not disappointed. We were treated to an hour of lively and insightful discussion between Rev Richard Coles and Nina Stibbe. Both have recently published books – one a memoir, the other a novel – with surprising similarities of theme.
Coles’ memoir, Fathomless Riches, is a book that “takes you to places other clergy memoir doesn’t stray” while Nina’s novel Man At The Helm was written out of fury at “10 years of my mother’s loneliness” following the divorce from Nina’s father. They both tell a story of being born into money and privilege before their lives changed as British manufacturing floundered in the 60s. They were left “humiliated and embarrassed” because with this reduction in wealth, came a reduction in their father’s status which reflected on whole family.
The discussion ranged from Richard’s grandfather’s hidden adulteries to Nina’s father’s elderly coming out, around which the main concern was: “But he’s part of the Montgomery scrabble club!”. The conversation was candid, and Richard said that in being honest in his memoir, he had been accused on Twitter of just “TMI Vicar”. Coles’ mother, however, appeared less scandalised: her take was “Oh darling, [it’s] charming, except where garish.” Continue reading →