Dissecting Saladin and Tamerlane, hero and anti-hero with John Man and Justin Marozzi, both in terms of the ‘real’ individuals but perhaps also in terms of their portrayal in literature, art and drama.
The session with Anchee Min and John Man in which we will be discussing China’s revolutions and evolution and how fact has often enough become fiction and fiction has become fact in the recording of what has always been perhaps the world’s most complex and sophisticated society and state.
Outside of my own sessions there is so much to look forward too, two Anthonys- Calderbank and Beevor, John Julius Norwich, Kate Lord Brown, Michael Dobbs, and Meera Syal. [I put her last here but I’ll be first in the queue for tickets.
Why do you think literary festivals are important?
As writers we are phenomenally jealous of those who make music and play it live- instant feedback, instant contact with the audience. Comedians get the same (although it isn’t always a pleasant experience) but writers and creators of visual art are at a remove from the reader or viewer.
A good book should always make you want to question the writer, and as writers we always want to be questioned and challenged. Mostly we want to hear the question, ‘how did you come up with…?’ because we’re essentially vain, fragile creatures in need of constant reassurance that it was all worth it…
Can you share one line from a book or poem that has stayed with you for the longest time?
‘a way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.’
I cheated, two lines and of course they are the last line and the first line of Finnegan’s Wake, and needless to say given Joyce’s ‘1132’ intentions for the book they make the narrative cyclical and never ending.
You have to make a book tower of at least 5 books for your nightstand. Which ones would you choose?
Short stories or books you can dip into for this one as I crump pretty quickly at night:
The Devil’s Mode: Anthony Burgess.
1066 And All That: Yeatman and Sellar.
The Collected Stories: William Trevor.
The Cantos: Ezra Pound. [It has to be my personal copy as it’s full of pencilled notes on the text]
A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia: Victor Pelevin- Translated by Andrew Bromfield
Mondo Piccolo: Don Camillo [3 Vol] Giovannino Guareschi
In your opinion, what does 2016 hold for the world of literature?
I don’t think it’s going to be pretty. Writers are getting less and less reward for their efforts, indeed Lucia Etxebarria, the award winning and prolific Spanish novelist claimed that she would quit writing to look for another job due to piracy.
This said the blockbusters will continue to come but ‘middling writers’ like myself and many others had better either find a day job or keep the one we’ve got as the wealth and readership distribution in books is even more lopsided than the ‘99% vs. 1%’ seen in general wealth/population calculations.
A recent article in the Society of Authors newsletters even suggested that writers look at the ancients for tips on how to keep your head above water: Patrons, [Horace] being born rich [Livy], having a second job [Marcus Aurelius!]… and so on. Pretty tough if you’re on the outside looking in though!
The death of the library in the UK is a significant event too I think though it is hard to see long term what this truly entails for the public, their reading [or otherwise!] habits and those who ‘supply’ media but if it expires quietly then the short term outlook is grim.
I think the graphic novel will continue to grow in strength, and in more cynical moments I believe this is due to reduced attention spans and in my more optimistic moments I think it is because it remains to be developed further.