Sep 17, 2012

The LitFest is over.. by Caroline

After months of preparation, it’s hard to believe that the second Guernsey Literary Festival is over. The final day was as fascinating as the rest.

[caption id="attachment_205" align="alignleft" width="640"] The Luna Bookshop © Carl Symes[/caption]

First off for me was the Digital Panel Discussion about The Future of the Book. Technology is advancing at a mind-boggling pace and this means changes for the publishing industry, writers and readers. We still want stories but they’re being told in different ways and on different platforms.

I expected to hear about Kindles (other e-readers are available – perhaps in Guernsey we should all have a ‘Kobo’?) but not Smart Fridges with embedded technology (panellist Tim Wright calls them ‘The cold hearth of the family’) and edible media. Tim quoted Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, who warned: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’ Reading looks set to be become a less solitary activity, with more opportunities for sharing the experience becoming commonplace. It was a really interesting discussion and a reminder that interaction is something we’ve always sought, going way back to sharing stories around a campfire.

After a coffee break I had a four-hour stretch of being ‘Event Manager’ at the Barclays Hub. We conducted Rosa Rankin-Gee’s talk as a kind of interview, with Rosa reading extracts from The Last Kings of Sark as well as answering questions. I’m so pleased that Rosa has a publishing deal for her novella so we’ll all be able to read it when it’s published next year. As anyone who read my article in Gallery magazine (also on this blog) will know, I absolutely loved The Last Kings of Sark. It’s a feel-good coming of age story which captures Sark in all its quirky glory – and the three main characters are fantastic.

Marina Lewycka then talked about the ‘Bankers, Hippies of Hamsters’ of Various Pets Alive and Dead – I reviewed it earlier on this blog and enjoyed it very much. Marina also touched on her other novels and the characters she’s most enjoyed creating. I have to agree with her that Valentina in A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and Mrs Shapiro in We Are All Made of Glue are especially memorable.

Historian Donald Sassoon is an authority on Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens. Unlike many penniless artists who only achieved recognition after their deaths, Hugo and Dickens were celebrities in their lifetimes and enjoyed great success – and wealth. They both held a mirror up to the huge social problems of the cities in which they lived, and their works are still loved today. One of the differences between them is that Dickens’ novels are humorous whereas Hugo’s aren’t (Les Miserables couldn’t be a bundle of laughs, could it?). I was intrigued to find out which author Donald prefers – it’s Charles Dickens.

[caption id="attachment_204" align="alignleft" width="640"] Me introducing Donald Sassoon © Carl Symes[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_202" align="alignleft" width="640"] Donald Sassoon © Carl Symes[/caption]

Last of all was Louis de Bernières, who entertained us with his funny stories. The one he read out from Notwithstanding, ‘The Happy Death of the General’ was amusing and sad at the same time. There was a long queue afterwards for Louis to sign books and he was ever so friendly and engaging. As were all our speakers, it’s been a pleasure to meet them as well as getting the chance to talk to so many other like-minded people. Bookworms rule!

I think the committee and all our fabulous volunteers are feeling a little wiped out now but I hope you’ll agree that our second Guernsey Literary Festival has been a huge success. It would have been a sorry event without you, the audience – thanks for your attendance, your thoughtful questions and your enthusiasm!