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I'm behind on LJ again. Given that I'm away again next week (on a reading holiday in Cornwall with oxfordhacker, truecatchresis, squigglyruth, Angharad and Tristam), I'm probably going to stay behind for a little while, so apologies to anyone if I miss anything important. This weekend I was busy having a really good time at the Cheltenham Literary Festival--thanks again to veggiesu and DH for the use of their spare room, and their hospitality, and their food (even if it was quorn that one time). I even had a good time despite the fact that, in themselves, some of the events were a little disappointing.

Friday, for instance: Paul Bailey and Beryl Bainbridge had an interesting, entertaining on-stage conversation about many things, but didn't really address the topic they'd been advertised as addressing ('what are the challenges of writing outside your own gender?') in that much depth. They did point out this interesting article by Fay Weldon about the remake of Alfie, though (Mark Lawson's take on the same is here).

Next, the discussion about whether books for young adults should have a moral message was something of a disaster. Of the two authors on stage, one appeared to have an extremely simplistic view of anything relating to morality or media influence on the same, whilst the other seemed either stoned, or extremely nervous, or naturally inarticulate; either way, the event ended up lurching along in a repetitive and unenlightening fashion. This was despite the best efforts of the moderator, mind, a very sharp lady who'd clearly thought more about the questions involved than both of the authors put together, and whose name I am completely failing to remember. Best moment was her scathing put-down when one of the authors was complaining about how he thought of himself as 'a writer', and got frustrated when others referred to him as 'a young adult writer'. "It's about definition, not limitation," she said, and moved briskly on to the next question. It's possible, of course, that books by the authors in question are nevertheless excellent, but I'm not inspired to check them out.

On Saturday afternoon we were (I discovered on my return to work) spotted from afar by one of my colleagues, saw Greg Dyke (an extremely charismatic man, with many interesting things to say, although my natural cynic has problems believing that The Gilligan Affair was quite as one-sided as he'd like to have us think) and heard a quartet of poetry readings (tangentially, Matthew Cheney posts about 'SF poetry', and whatever that may be, here). Of these, my favourite was Julia Copus; so in honour of the poetry meme doing the rounds (if you see poetry in someone else's journal, post some in your own) I give you 'The Back Seat of My Mother's Car.'

We left before I had time
to comfort you, to tell you that we nearly touched
hands in that vacuous half-dark. I wanted
to stem the burning waters running over me like tiny
rivers down my face and legs, but at the same time I was reaching out
for the slit in the window where the sky streamed in,
cold as ether, and I could see your fat mole-fingers grasping
the dusty August air. I pressed my face to the glass;
I was calling to you - Daddy! - as we screeched away into
the distance, my own hand tingling like an amputation.
You were mouthing something I still remember, the noiseless words
piercing me like that catgut shriek that flew up, furious as a sunset
pouring itself out against the sky. The ensuing silence
was the one clear thing I could decipher -
the roar of the engine drowning your voice,
with the cool slick glass between us.

With the cool slick glass between us,
the roar of the engine drowning, your voice
was the one clear thing I could decipher -
pouring itself out against the sky, the ensuing silence
piercing me like that catgut shriek that flew up, furious as a sunset.
You were mouthing something: I still remember the noiseless words,
the distance, my own hand tingling like an amputation.
I was calling to you , Daddy, as we screeched away into
the dusty August air. I pressed my face to the glass,
cold as ether, and I could see your fat mole-fingers grasping
for the slit in the window where the sky streamed in
rivers down my face and legs, but at the same time I was reaching out
to stem the burning waters running over me like tiny
hands in that vacuous half-dark. I wanted
to comfort you, to tell you that we nearly touched.
We left before I had time.


Saturday evening saw the event I'd been most looking forward to ahead of time--Ian McDonald, Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi and Deborah Moggach discussing 'India: past, present and future.' It had a clued-up moderator and clued-up participants, so it was ahead of either of Friday's events from the get-go; my one disappointment is that I think maybe Ian McDonald didn't sell River of Gods as well as he might have done. In particular, I think his choice of reading, the section where Najia meets Lal Darfan, was probably the wrong one. We bumped into Paul and Elizabeth Billinger (well, ok, they shouted at me across the audience until I noticed them); Paul suggested (and I agree) that the opening of the book would probably have worked better.

The body turns in the stream. Where the new bridge crosses the Ganga in five concrete strides, garlands of sticks and plastic snag around the footings; rafts of river flotsam. For a moment the body might join them, a dark hunch in the black stream. The smooth flow of water hauls it, spins it around, shies it feet first through the arch of steel and traffic. Overhead trucks roar across the high spans. Day and night, convoys bright with chrome work, gaudy with gods, storm the bridge into the city, blaring filmi music from their roof speakers. The shallow water shivers.


The last event I went to see, on Sunday, was a discussion with two of the authors nominated for the Booker Prize (winner announced tonight, and I'm still rooting for David Mitchell), Sarah Hall (The Electric Michelangelo) and Gerard Woodward (I'll Go To Bed At Noon). It was good to hear more about two of the books I knew less about, and Sarah Hall in particular had many interesting things to say, but I couldn't help wishing for a Not the Clarke Awards-style balloon debate ...

... all of which sounds terribly critical, when actually I had, as I said, a really good time. Clearly I'm just well on my way to becoming a curmudgeon.
 
 
 
 
 
 
(on a reading holiday in Cornwall with oxfordslacker, truecatchresis, squigglyruth, Angharad and Tristam),

A reading holiday? Is that, like, the opposite of an activity holiday? :)

Day and night, convoys bright with chrome work, gaudy with gods, storm the bridge into the city, blaring filmi music from their roof speakers. The shallow water shivers.

Mmm. I like that last line. Works well with the complex line before it, and the imagery is instant.
A reading holiday? Is that, like, the opposite of an activity holiday? :)

Well, duh. :-p

We all go to a cottage in Cornwall for a week. We read books, we cook big meals, we go for the occasional walk. Should be good.

Mmm. I like that last line.

The first four or so pages (however long the first chapter is) are almost perfect. Mind you, the rest of the book's not bad, either. ;-)
Next, the discussion about whether books for young adults should have a moral message was something of a disaster. Of the two authors on stage, one appeared to have an extremely simplistic view of anything relating to morality or media influence on the same, whilst the other seemed either stoned, or extremely nervous, or naturally inarticulate; either way, the event ended up lurching along in a repetitive and unenlightening fashion.

who were these people?

btw, silverberg went into the mail yesterday.
because I am rubbish and did not manage to do it earlier. But it is on its way, finally.
A reading holiday? I could do with one of those. The number of unfinished or unread books I have lying about the house at the moment is absolutely shameful. But hey, after this statistics exam tomorrow, I'll be off from studying until February, so I should be able to get some good reading in. Or napping. Lots of napping. And there is that sweater I have been meaning to finish knitting these last 10 years...
Shall we start calling you Grumpelstiltskin?
The sad thing is, even after this week the number of unfinished or unread books I will have lying about my flat will be absolutely shameful.

And please start calling me Grumpelstiltskin. I would really like that.

And good luck with the exam!

Note: this comment contains sarcasm. CAN YOU SPOT IT?
Note: this comment contains sarcasm. CAN YOU SPOT IT?

Yes - I believe that you will never be ashamed of the number of books you have in your flat, regardless of their read status. Do I win a prize, Grumpelstiltskin?
...
Note: this comment contains sarcasm. CAN YOU SPOT IT?
*innocent*
Nope, where?
Here's a clue: it wasn't in the first or third statements. :-p
Hmm, I think my glasses need cleaning.
(Deleted comment)
I'm jealous of the time you have to write things up!

Don't be; it was at the expense of the work I was meant to be doing today. Oops.

And I will read that 52 ways to read a poem at some point.
Don't be; it was at the expense of the work I was meant to be doing today. Oops.

And I still forgot to mention the most important point of the weekend: you bought more books than I did. :-D
their food (even if it was quorn that one time)

I knew I was right not to tell you what it was until you'd already said you liked it!
You tricked me! YOU TRICKED ME, OLD WOMAN!

That is all. ;-)
Pfft - I merely (and TRUTHFULLY) confirmed for you it was neither red meat nor chicken. Quite *why* you thought I would be slaving over a hot wok full of carcass in the first place escapes me :-p
Because I was being an idiot, ok? :-p
You're quite cute when you do that* :-p

* this statement in way, shape or form implies any kind of flirtage WHATSOEVER