There does seem to be a strong tendency in the British to dismiss an enjoyment in the discussion of the written word as pretentious, in this world intellectual is an insult.
It is very much linked to the view that science is either undertaken by otherworldly boffins or madman bent on creating something that the
term Frankenstein can be spliced with, mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha, in case you’re wondering that’s a mad scientist laugh.
Well, I don’t care I enjoy the Hay Festival. I enjoy hearing my favourite authors discuss their work and their worldview. For those of you that have never been to the festival or the pretty village of Hay, it lies just across the border in Wales on the river Wye, has many book shops, although sadly not as many as it used to have, and its own ruined castle. And although as the crow flies it’s not that far, it is really out of the way and takes real commitment to get there, especially in heavy rain. A journey that normally took 2.5hrs turned into a marathon of almost 5hrs. By the time I arrived Hay did not resemble the Woodstock of the mind but more Glastonbury, it turns out that literary mud is as sticky as any other kind of mud.
After a restorative lunch at the Three Tuns pub there was enough time to wander the book shops before the first gig, it is always essential to pop into second-hand crime bookshop “Murder and Mayhem”, to search for George Simenon novels.
The afternoon kicked off with Carrie Fisher of “Star Wars” and “Harry Met Sally” fame. She is also the author of a number of very frank personal histories including “Postcards from the Edge”, this was made into a film based on her own script. Strangely enough in the Q&A session after her interview the question of her golden bikini from the “Empire Strikes Back” came up, clearly this undermines all the arguments about the Hay Festival being an intellectual snooze fest. And no, she didn’t take the bikini with her after filming had finished.
This was followed by an interview with Hans Rosenfeldt, the writer behind the Danish-Swedish Noire TV series “The Bridge”. For those of you that missed out on this, the first episode of Season 1 kicks off with a body of a woman found cut in half on the bridge joining Denmark and Sweden, half in each country. How is it possible that the Scandinavians’ use and understanding of English is better than ours?
The evening was finished off with the comedian Lee Mack, cue lots of jokes about the middle classes, very entertaining.
What carries on growing when you die?
Much of the rest of the night was spent trying to find the B&B in Builth Wells I’d booked into; on a positive note I did see my first live badger who attempted to end his life in front of my car twice.
The following day was one of the highlights, I saw Hanif Kureishi discuss his new novel “The Last Word” and speak with ferocity and clarity on a range of topics from Muslim fundamentalism, the failure of the left to the usefulness or otherwise of creative writing courses.
To ensure that a political balance is maintained in this post I am happy to report that I also saw PJ O’Rourke, the American political satirist, speak about his new book on “The Baby Boom”. Again, very entertaining while drawing attention to some uncomfortable truths about the baby boom generation; basically the rest of us are screwed.
The whole festival was wrapped up in the company of Ray Davis of The Kinks fame, who sang some new songs and told a few stories about America from his book “Americana”.
All in all, it was great fun, it’s true you should make Hay while the sun shines, although if it rains take some wellingtons.
If you’ve ever been to the Hay Festival or another literary festival, I’d be interested to hear what you thought of it and who interested you most.