Today the full programme for the Independent Bath Literature Festival, 28 Feb to 9 March 2014, is revealed! 10 days, 180+ authors, 20,000+ tickets. I’m the Artistic Director and this is my first year in the job. This year’s theme? Bliss.
New names unveiled today: Alastair Campbell, Rachel Joyce, Patricia Hodge, Jonathan Dimbleby, Jed Rubenfeld, Amy Chua, Gary Shteyngart, Jo Caulfield, Ben Watt, Lucy Porter, Philip Hensher, Michael Rosen, Douglas Alexander, Jonathan Aitken, Gabin Esler, The Incredible Spice Men, Nicky Haslam, Adele Parks, David Lodge, Mrs Moneypenny, Frieda Hughes, AL Kennedy, Boris Akunin, Olivia Laing, Lionel Shriver… Er, is that enough? (That is not everyone. I’ll be blogging regular guides to the programme over the next few weeks as it’s hard to get your head around 180+ events.)
Here’s how to buy tickets: Jennifer Saunders goes on general release for the first time today. I’ll be interviewing her in the Forum about her book Bonkers and whether she is ever going to get around to writing the movie of Absolutely Fabulous. And whether Goldie Hawn is as awful as she sounds. It will be a very intellectual discussion indeed.
On sale as Early Bird releases: Hanif Kureishi, Henry Blofeld, Claudia Roden, Mark Hix, Austentatious, Rowan Williams, Mark Watson and the Great Big Comedy Night (I’m MCing), Joanna Trollope, The Great Bath News Debate with Intelligence Squared featuring Alain de Botton, Jon Snow and Jonathan Dimbleby, Germaine Greer.
All the rest of the tickets you can buy now if you sign up as a Friend of the Festival, from £20. Details here. Membership gets you an advance brochure mailing, priority booking and invitations to exclusive events.
All tickets go on general release on January 20. Enjoy!
New update Events for 2014 including The Night I Died at LOCO Festival on Sunday 26 January, I Laughed, I Cried at the Independent Bath Literature Festival at Komedia Bath at 4.30pm on Friday 7 March, the Great Big Comedy Night with Mark Watson, Mary Bourke and Gemma Whelan at 7pm on Friday 7 March and I Laughed, I Cried: The Show Version 2.0 at Cambridge WordFest on Saturday 5 April. Click here for all Events.
Above: discussion on Soviet propaganda posters at GRAD (Gallery of Russian Art and Design) on 22 January.
Making it into my list of 2013 novels in the Observer (click on the book title for the original full-length review): Big Brother by Lionel Shriver (The Observer), Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (The Observer), The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, Home Fires by Elizabeth Day (The Observer), The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Deaths by Mark Lawson, Unexploded by Alison Macleod (The Observer), Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright (The Times), Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant (The Times), The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Red), The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Red), Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell (The Observer), All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (The Times), Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (Red) and May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes (The Observer).
Whilst I recommend all these books, it’s interesting to note the ones I read even though I knew I wasn’t going to be reviewing them: Claire Messud, Meg Wolitzer, Mark Lawson. With all the others, lots of them I read and then ended up reviewing (it’s relatively rare for me to read something because I *have* to review it and have no choice).
Picture by Paris-based photographer Ed Alcock (for ES magazine), whose book Hobbledehoy is out now.
I loved interviewing Femen co-founder Inna Shevchenko in Russian (and a tiny bit — troshki — of Ukrainian) in Paris for ES magazine for the London Evening Standard. I have mixed feelings about Femen and the point of what they’re doing. And, as I stated in the piece, I worry for their safety: they are extremists and that attracts the attention of other extremists. But Shevchenko is a fascinating and intelligent young woman with her heart in the right place. I was sorry she had not heard of Germaine Greer.
Hilariously, a picture of me with Femen got me a warning from Facebook. (You’re not allowed to publish pictures of nipples.) And when I posted the link to this piece on the Standard website, I was banned from Facebook for 24 hours. I daren’t risk putting this picture there again…
It sounds uncharitable to say it, but I just don’t know how much more of Downton I can take. I have started surreptitiously watching The Paradise on BBC1 on Sunday evenings (surreptitious because I have to fool myself into watching it as I just can’t get caught up with watching anything else). And The Paradise is so much better than Downton! They have a crazy lesbian French lady retailer who is really into lavish firework displays! I’m blogging the wrong series.
Here’s the review of Episode 6 of Downton. Beware spoilers. At least there are only two more episodes to go.
Here’s a few of my favourite children’s books in Red. Very pleased to see this week’s Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize has gone to Rebecca Stead for Liar & Spy — great book.
Very proud to be part of this brilliant new idea: a website celebrating Selfish Mothers. Being a decent person and parent is all about what they tell you on a plane: put on your own sodding oxygen mask first before you try and save anyone else.
Of course, I would say that, though, wouldn’t I? What other way do you justify doing 100 gigs in 100 nights? “When it comes to being a selfish mother, I have quite literally written the book on it. You can’t get more self-centered than doing something you want to do just because you want to do it for a hundred consecutive nights. Something which you do for the love of it and to scratch an itch and because you know you have to. I neither regret it nor would I recommend it. But it made me understand that sometimes it’s OK to be outlandishly selfish, as long as there’s an end in sight.”
Fron Red November issue: review of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. “If you are a very good writer, it’s an excellent trick to spend many years finishing a book. Because when your book comes out it automatically becomes the publishing event of the year, if not the decade. Of course, it helps if you are Donna Tartt, who ticks all the boxes. She’s an eccentric, solitary genius who makes us wait and wait and wait for her work. And when it comes it’s brilliant.” That’s about the size of it.
Talking all day on radio and TV about Helen Fielding and Mad About the Boy, with my “Bridget-Jones-fan-meets-literary-editor” hat on. (It is a large pink beret.) Let’s just leave aside my discomfort about the fact that it is not actually possible to read the whole book yet. It’s heavily embargoed until next week.
It has been serialised in the Sunday Times (for the first time yesterday, revealing the death of Darcy — horrors!) and in the Times. But apparently not even they have access to the whole book, to avoid spoilers. It’s out on October 10th and all will become clear then…
Meanwhile, I’ve speculated a bit for Red Online here about whether it’s a good idea to have made Bridget 51 years old. It’s a gamble. But I guess with 30 million copies sold, Helen Fielding must know what she’s doing, right? Right?