Wednesday, 10 October 2012

In Which There Are More Writers

It's been a busy weekend.

On Friday I had tickets for another Bath Kids Lit. Fest event - an event with Johan Harstad, a Norwegian novelist and playwright whose first YA novel, 172 Hours on the Moon has recently been translated and published in English.

I was only able to stay for the first half of the event, as I also had a ticket for the theatre, and I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer. Johan explained that he had been asked to write a book to be given away to children as part of a cultural festival, and that the book turned out more frightening than originally expected, so ended up being distributed to older children than originally planned.

He spoke about his love of horror movies and books, and claimed that his intention in writing the novel was to cause people to be scared of the Moon... I haven't read the book yet, but I think it will be interesting!

from Bath Theatre Royal website
 (Mr Rushworth)
After leaving that event, I walked up to the theatre to see 'Mansfield Park', in a new adaptation fr the stage. I love Austen, but admit that 'Mansfield Park' is my least favourite of her works, partly, I think because it was a set book (with an uninspiring teacher) at A-Level, but also because I find it so hard to identify with Fanny Price, one of literature's wet blankets.

This production has slimmed down the cast of characters - there is no Mr Norris, No Julia Bertram, No Mr Yates, and Dr Grant, Mrs Grant and Lady Bertram do not appear on stage. The play moves quickly, and there is a good deal of humour, but perhaps inevitably, a lot of the nuances are lost.

Most importantly, Edmund's kindnesses to Fanny are limited to providing her with paper to write to her brother, when she first arrives, and ensuring that she is included in the trip to Sotherton, which, combined with his infatuation with Mary Crawford made it hard to see what Fanny saw in him....

However, despite this, the play is entertaining and witty. I may even go back and re-read the novel again.

Michael Morpurgo
On Saturday, I was back in Bath for 2 Kids Lit events, and a separate one run by Toppings (on of Bath's two wonderful independent bookshops)

The first event was Michael Morpurgo, who is the author of 'War Horse', and over 100 other books - his event was at the Forum, which started life as a (fabulously Art Deco) cinema - there were around 1,000 there, more than half of them children.

He spoke about the inspiration for 'War Horse', and claimed that the reason that many of his books feature characters called 'Michael' is because he is "deeply unimaginative". He also commented that there ought to be a requirement to have spent time as a teacher before they could become Education Secretary, and got the biggest cheer of the day!

It was clear that the children in the audience were enjoying themselves, and that Michael was as well!

Anthony Horowitz
Later on, I returned to the Forum for the event with Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider books, and of a series, Power of Five, which he has just completed by writing the 5th and final book, Oblivion. 

Horowitz came across as very enthusiastic about his work, and talked not only about the Alex Rider books, and Power of Five, but also about his TV work on Foyle's War, and about writing the Sherlock Holmes sequel, A Touch of Silk, It was entertaining, but I was left feeling it was all a bit superficial.

The final event which I attended was not part of the Kids Lit Fest, but the separate 'autumn book festival' which Toppings books are involved with. They had arranged for radio 4 presenter, James Naughtie, to come to speak about his book, The New Elizabethans. 

The book is a series of 60 essays, each of which started as the script for a  15 minute radio programmer. Each  essay is about a person (or persons) who are seen as 'new Elizabethans', so they are all people who are, or were, famous or extraordinary during the 60 years of the Queen's reign.

The 'Elizabethans' were selected by a panel, from nominations sent in to Radio 4 by listeners, and ranged from Sir Edmund Hillary, to Sir David Attenborough, to Jocelyn Bell Burnell, to others who were perhaps more unexpected - Simon Cowell, for instance...

Naughtie read several short extracts from the essays, and talked a little about some of the challenges - writing to a very tight deadline, writing about  people whom he knew personally, and so forth. I'm glad a went, although sadly I did have to leave just before the end, in order to catch my train home.

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