I had never been before, to Hay on Wye, imagined that perhaps it might all be a bit twee and muddy and wet, with a need for wellies (the site is in a field in Wales) and with lots of middle aged and old people. Well yes, on the first day that we were there it was wet, and eventually there was mud. Day two (Sunday) was brilliant with everyone out on the grass, clutching books, papers, cups of coffee and glasses of wine. And there were also lots of young people, all ages, from teenagers to groups of early twenties and young families as well as the grey hair brigade and yes, they appeared mostly middle class, no football shirts or music festival gear.
Kazuo Ishiguro stood up for the footballers. He said he absolutely loved the way footballers speak, their language is authentic and real, and he did not have much time for John Mullan’s suggestion that there are certain words and expressions that are a ‘no no’ as far as ‘good’ writing is concerned. For example someone saying ‘At the end of the day…’ . Well, said Ishiguro, that is actually quite deep and philosophical, footballers can put a lot into the use of such an expression. Brilliant. Ignore everything you’ve ever been told in your creative writing course! Mullan also prodded Ishiguro about the difference between writing a novel and writing short stories. Not much difference, Ishiguro said, his book ‘Nocturnes’, a collection of short stories, has a unifying theme, that of music, and also that of acceptance. In a novel, there are also often many different stories of different characters or events, which then are provided with a unifying theme. Definitely something to store away and think about a bit more.
Instead of Martina Coole and another session with Henning Mankell, both of which were cancelled, I managed to get tickets for a ‘5x15stories‘ event. For a very brief moment I though my own blog name was somehow plagiarised, or duplicated, but no, this was about five speakers who speak for 15 minutes each on a non-fiction subject, replicated at the Festival with contributions by Martin Rees (the Astronomer Royal), John Mitchinson, MD of QI, Heather Brookes, the investigative journalist who uncovered the expenses scandal, Anthony Grayling, professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College and author of numerous non-fiction books, and last but certainly not least the conservative MP Rory Stewart who made a passionate speech about the jargon used to justify the unjustifiable, war, and against the disease of words. He wrote The Places in Between , a book about his experience in Afghanistan and the basis of much of his arguments against the justifications made by politicians with regards to the war in Afghanistan (who argue that ‘if we don’t then the Talibanwill create terror on the streets of Britain’, etc). Before that, Martin Rees mused about time travel, Anthony Grayling about his attempt to find the exact route taken by William Hardon for a forthcoming book, and Heather Brookes about her views on how the expenses scandal was unravelled. A great concept this 5x15stories and the session delivered so much food for thought.
The bookshops provided endless joy in between and so, despite my intention to start borrowing more from libraries rather than acquiring from bookshops, we ended up with a fresh pile of books, even if we did not have the energy or the will to join the queues for author signatures.
After the last session that day with David Mitchell, see my previous blog, we decided to call it a day and to give Ed Milliband a miss. After all, there probably will be enough opportunity in the next few months to listen to him on TV and radio, in speeches and through canvassing sessions. There is only so much you can take in on what was after all a fairly wet and cold day and we longed for a glass of wine in a comfortable chair in a warm room.