Cúirt Report: Nine Things I learnt from this year’s Literature Festival
29/04/2012 2 Comments
- Richard Beard does not have a beard. That said, he does have a tremendous ease on stage, delivering a performance which was half-way between a traditional reading and something akin to an academic paper on his own work. Beard traced the development of his writing, reading excerpts from his earlier books as a means of explaining how he came to write his latest, Lazarus is Dead. An engaging and entertaining presentation, he more than held his own alongside John Banville, who read ‘a bleeding chunk’ of his new novel for 20 minutes and came off as a little staid by comparison.
- The novel which David Mitchell (no, not that one) is currently working on begins in the 1970s, runs through the present, and ends in the 2030s. ‘It’s the story of a life, a young girl in 1979, through her experience as lover, wife, mother, widow, and then it gets weird at the end. But I don’t want to say too much about it because it’ll end up on Wikipedia and by then I’ll have changed my mind…’
- John Banville and Benjamin Black have a love/hate relationship: ‘My aim,’ says “Black”, ‘is to write a crime novel without a murder in it… At which point I’ll have turned into Banville’. Banville, for his part, claims ‘Black stole in at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon and wrote the last 20 or 30 pages of my new novel (Ancient Light). They were terrible; I had to throw them and write them again’.
- ‘Gout, robots, and strong women…’ Mitchell’s recurring tropes. Gout because it was prevalent in the 1700s and 1800s, strong women because his wife would kill him if he wrote a female character without any real agency, and robots because… well, he side-stepped that one.
- While I wasn’t at the “Real Book Vs E-Book” panel, I’m told that the consensus was that “real” books are going the way of vinyl: just something for collectors. Yes I’m solidly in denial, but I continue to believe in the possibility of peaceful co-existence! Mind you, there were plenty of people buying “real” books in the festival bookshop throughout the week…
- After having satellite radio installed in his car and rocking out to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, Simon Van Booy emailed his agent and suggested a Young Adult novel set in the 1980s and based around the band’s music. He didn’t receive a reply. Perhaps he should have suggested Gangsta Rap, which his daughter believes ‘is crucial to her intellectual growth’.
- ‘The world is divided into those who have completed a novel length manuscript and those who have not.’ (At least Mitchell was kind enough not to say ‘those who have published a novel…’!)
- Just like writers researching novels, birds’ brains apparently expand to handle complex matters (such as navigation) but thereafter shrink back down again to focus on ‘sex and eggs’. Interesting facts from the Saturday night panel!
- The human talent for asking wonderfully ridiculous questions would seem to know no bounds. Kudos to the audience member who essentially said to Banville: ‘I wouldn’t be so stupid and impertinent as to suggest that your writing since the Eighties has been less careful and brilliant, but why have you not written with the same care and brilliance since the Eighties?’ Banville’s response was an irked ‘I write exactly the same as I always have,’ though – to be fair – his answers to other questions were equally succinct. ‘Why did you decide to return to the character of Cleave?’ he was asked: ‘I didn’t,’ he replied. ‘It just happened’.