On the road again … The King’s Lynn Fiction Festival. An hour in a school, with not very responsive teenage boys, a panel discussion about whether literature should civilise, educate or neither, (short answer – both, through the medium of empathy), a reading from the new book (TENDER, published by Salt – I may have mentioned it), and a panel discussion around six Desert Island books. Lovely weekend. Well, lovely maybe wouldn’t be the word for the school. One boy proudly told me he’d never read a book in his life, which surprised his teacher, since he’s doing English GCSE. And he’ll probably get a decent pass too. Rest of the weekend though – lovely is the right word.
We were met on the station, Friday lunch-time, by a piper and champagne. Why a piper? Why not? It’s that sort of Festival. Booze flowed freely all weekend, and the food was good too. Talked children (mine) and grandchildren (hers) with Beryl Bainbridge, talked of sadly departed Malcolm Bradbury with Christopher Bigsby, talked of crime novelist John Dickson Carr with Jill Paton Walsh, talked Hawthornden castle and other things with Sophie Hannah, talked about those old days with Bloomsbury (publishers, not febrile literary coterie) with DJ Taylor, and chatted happily with Rachel Hore, Tessa West and Anthony Grey. And with all sorts of friends of the Festival and audience members too, because that’s one of the best things about it – you don’t sit behind a table, signing (or not signing) books, you just mill about, chatting. Did sell 20 books though. And stayed with a very nice guy who had a full-size Dalek called Salvador in his kitchen. So that was good.
And my six Desert Island books? They were Bleak House, Dubliners, Ragtime, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Passion, The Road. Could have been six equally valid, entirely different ones of course, but they felt like good choices at the time. Sophie was off to Australia on a book tour on the Monday, Chris was just back from France. I go to Macclesfield and King’s Lynn. And like it.