I was only half aware the book lovers' Hay Festival was in full swing when I dipped into Radio 4's Today this morning, whence the show was part-broadcast. "Any novel, be it literary or commerical, lives or dies on the strength of it's [sic] characters," decrees an online intro to a Hay event on Characterisation. Much could be said of the strength of subbing on same.
Were I of a terroristic nature, the Hay Festival is probably the one occasion that would bring out the suicide bomber in me. Fortunately, I am of a spiritually developed pacific nature. Perhaps it is the steely middle-classness of Hay, or its determined worthiness, that provokes me to imaginary violence. Just listening to R4 presenter, the garrulous "Jim" Naughtie ["nock-tee"], asking himself in one of his self-conscious, self-correcting soliloquies, whether a tent can have a wall, drove me to a particularly vivid re-invention of a mediaeval torture instrument applied to the scrotal sac.
Today Kathy Lette and John Mortimer kicked off with an item on Murder: A Beginner's Guide. The Rumpole creator and ex-QC Mortimer - who hasn't even a proper law degree to his name but he did have a daddy barrister - said in that near-eunuch high, reedy-whiny voice of his: "I always found clients accused of murder far more endearing than divorce clients. Divorce clients might phone you at two in the morning and say, 'And now he wants custody of the dog!' Whereas murder clients were really very calm and relaxed and easy-going - they might have killed the one person who was driving them around the bend, you see. They had freed themselves."
A nice observation, even if polished for a literary festival audience that has spent too much time watching comfy Tussauds TV's Miss Marple, or Rumpole even.
Kathy Lette reminded us that her husband Geoffrey Robertson QC was once Mortimer's junior and is now engaged in about 120 different human rights cases at any given moment - doubtless at great financial sacrifice I'm sure. "I often plan on murdering him," she said for a memorable quote to Nock-tee. She's not trying hard enough is all I can say to that.
Hunter Davies talked about the challenges of ghosting. Some subjects just clammed up - like Wayne Rooney. Fortunately his mum had kept all his school reports "because she was a school dinner lady". While someone like Gazza revealed too much - "I'd say to Gazza 'that's too disgusting, we can't put that in the book.'" His mum could only dig out Gazza's school swimming certificate.
More in keeping with my state of mind was Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka who called for a peaceful revolution in his home country. He has a calm, slow way of speaking, and a voice deep with painful clarity. His nation's ills were in part due to establishment evil people generating new evil people despite (because of?) wealth from natural resources. The evil people had to be got rid of.
Slightly cheering was HarperCollins' CEO Victoria Barnsley making a corporate promise of imminent carbon neutrality. Apparently, books on recycled paper are less bulked out, but never mind. I suppose Murdoch's belated awakening to the fact of global warming may have something to do with this. A bookseller bemoaned the demise of indie bookshops: in Hay for example the bibliophiliac battle line will be drawn between WH Smith and Waterstone's ... but there's always the internet. More and more people shop by click - you find what you want and it gets delivered to the door. Perfect.
Then, as I lay in bed, I defaulted to doze mode and dreamt of pitter-pattering tents and marshy fields and AA Gill in his booties being consumed by a huge wild boar (maybe the one in the papers that was shot by that little shit of a boy). Funny things, dreams.
For sensible coverage of Hay, try Fiction Bitch