Budleigh Salterton 2019 Part 1

Margaret BThis week, we have the first of two reports on author talks at last month’s Budleigh Salterton. We start with CWC member, Margaret Barnes, talking about some of the speakers who got her thinking over the four day festival.

“What a fantastic mixture of established authors and new voices; there was something for everyone. From Melanie Reid’s memoir to speculative fiction by Nina Allen, it was a cornucopia of talent. One can’t go to every event, nor would one want to – the brain can only absorb so much.

The talks I did attend always provided something, sometimes just a word or a phrase that set me thinking. Here are a few of them.

Dr Suzanne Fagence Cooper talked about Ruskin and why he still matters. He is best known as an art critic but he could well be described as an early conservationist having realised the climate was changing during his life time. ‘Never confuse a myth with a lie’ was the phrase I wrote down.

Dianne Setterfield whose new book is Once upon a River spoke of her love of language enhanced by studying another language and having to translate from one to the other. ‘Originality is overstated’ and ‘story is essential’ were the comments I took away from that.

A discussion about sense of place with Polly Clark, Alix Nathan and Professor Helen Taylor didn’t quite keep to the subject, but I was particularly impressed by award winning poet, Alix Nathan, and her book Tiger  which is set in the wilds of Russia, the home of the Siberian tiger, the invisible subject of her book. Her phrase ‘the white book’ described how the inhabitants of the forest name the mantle of snow allowing then to read the movements of animals and people.

But the most thought provoking was the conversation between Dame Hilary Mantel, Professor Emma Smith and James Runcie on This is Shakespeare. Professor Smith asked the question why Shakespeare is so universal? She began by saying that the biography in Shakespeare’s plays is our own. There is much ‘gappiness’ in his plays. Not just the lack of description of the characters which is what you would expect in a script, but a lack of stage directions. This lack of certainty, the things unsaid allows the plays, as interpreted by directors and actors, to keep pace with the contemporary world. For the playgoer as for a reader it is a creative act to fill in the gaps. She quoted Hilary Mantel who said in a Reith lecture ‘a completed thing is an exhausted thing.’

As writers we need reminding the act of creating a novel is only completed when the words we have written are read and interpreted by a reader.

I hope the Exeter Literary Festival provides as much food for thought.”

Margaret Barnes

Margaret Barnes and fellow CWC member, Elizabeth Ducie, will be appearing at the Exeter Literary Festival next month. The Lawyer and The Chemist Turn To Crime is on at 10.30am on Saturday 9th November in Exeter Central Library. 

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