With Hay Festival and Charleston Festival both happening in the UK this week and my Twitter timeline being flooded with mentions, photos and quotes from both, it started me thinking, why do people go to literary festivals? At a music festival, you go to hear the music played live, at a food festival you go to eat; but a literary festival? It's not like you go to hear the books read aloud. So why do people go, exactly?
Sorry, I just thought that sounded nice. I guess it's been a long day. At least it's kinda meta. Anyway, book clubs. Yes. I am now running one in the cafe where I am a decidedly average waitress and wondered if I could ask you, the delightful blog-reading public, for some advice.
I know, the last thing the world needs is another book blogger talking about vampires and werewolves. I’ll say it here: this is not a post about Twilight or any other YA adult vampire series. Nope, what I’m about to talk about here is the sexy older sister of those series, who’s had a couple of bad marriages, owns a gun maybe and has more than a few [emotional] scars. She is also hilarious and terrifying and has some big things to say about some big ol’ things. Yep, you guessed it: I’m talking about Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series.
For those who've not seen it, thenextbigauthor.com is home to a competition in which you upload the first 5,000-7,000 words of your novel at Arts Council-funded youwriteon.com between the 17th and 31st May 2011 and entrants rate each other's pieces throughout June. The top 5 rated pieces will then get a professional critique from Random House, Bloomsbury, Orion, Little Brown or Hodder & Stoughton, which I'm sure you'll agree would be worth having. I will be nervously uploading my 7,000 words tomorrow when the competition opens and will jubilantly respond to reviews with a review myself (although you need to have entered to view/review/participate), so hope to see some of you there. Any of you. Anyone? Anyone? Ferris? Anyone?
Of course, finding literary inspiration in a movement that contained quite so much actual literature was never going to be hard; especially when it was so coloured by bohemia and decadence, sensuality and romanticism and a deep appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of life. The poetry practically writes itself, doesn’t it?
On Saturday I attended my second event of the Vintage Book's 21st birthday celebrations (the first being the Vintage Open Day; read my account here), the Vintage Classics Day, at Foyles on Charing Cross Rd. It was a star-studded event that sold out days in advance and served very well to illustrate the beauty and depth of the Vintage backlist and our own literary heritage, the idea being that we were ‘celebrating classics with the writers who will be the classics of the future’. These writers were, namely, Sebastian Faulks, Lionel Shriver, Mark Haddon, Sadie Jones, Jake Arnott and Rose Tremain.
Today's post comes from a short story that entered my life long ago, but recently re-entered it thanks to the swag obtained from the Vintage Open Day: ‘Kew Gardens’ by Virginia Woolf. It is an ecstatic account of a sunny afternoon spent amongst the flowers, which sings with lyricism, colour and life. It is stunning, as hopefully the quote below, the first paragraph of the story, will demonstrate: