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In August 2011 I published a blog about the rebirth of the short story (see https://peatmore.wordpress.com/2011/08/22). Now it seems that this form of fiction writing is going from strength to strength. The BBC is once more running its annual competition for its National Short Story Award and all this week the short listed stories are being broadcasted on BBC Radio 4 until Friday 23 September (http://tinyurl.com/hzbtokk).
In addition the BBC Readings Unit have chosen some of their favourite Radio 4 short stories to listen to again (http://tinyurl.com/zrgva4y).
Not to be outdone Peatmore Press has launched my Kindle ebook short story collection, “New Beginnings” as a free download for 5 days beginning today.
An Exceptional Nation?
Former newspaper commentator and historian, Jonathan Fenby, posed this question about France at the Quaterhouse this afternoon. He took us through the events that have shaped the country from the Revolution to the present day. Some of the facts I already knew but there were many details about the leaders of those times of which I was unaware. This has been a month in which the shootings in Paris have left the modern world numb. The French President has called it an attack on the very values and fabric of his country. This was my last visit to a Folkestone Book Festival event and gives me a chance to reflect on how fanatical violence can affect the freedoms fought for and gained by today’s modern civilizations. Fenby’s book looks to contain valuable information about the turmoils that effect the evolution of a European country and looks to be worth buying.
Robin Ince’s Reality Tunnel
I took a break from the Festival on Friday but decided to give this presentation by Robin Ince last night a view. I had not heard of Ince before and was unprepared for what turned out to be a very clever stand-up routine with a smattering of scientific facts thrown in. His set was full of throwaway one liners and often diverged away from a particular point he was trying to make before the punch line. I particularly liked the way he said he had upset some art critics when he said that instead of visiting a Turner exhibition he preferred to walk along a bank of the Thames without his glasses on. Good comedy will always offend someone and Ince takes great delight in doing this. At times I found his comedy a little too glib but the audience seemed enchanted by it. Hidden between the jibs are some salient points and I think that any night out hosted by Robin Ince will be well worth the visit.
This year is the 200th centenary of Anthony Trollop’s birth. The Festival marked the occasion by making his novel, The Way We Live Now, the festival read and a mammoth showing of all parts of the BBC adaptation preceded this presentation by Peter Merchant, principal lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University. I elected to miss the marathon screening but I was glad that I attended the presentation. I confess that I have not read any Trollop novel or watch any of their film or TV adaptations. However, it was fascinating to hear Merchant compare his writing style with his more famous contemporary, Charles Dickens. He used text analysis tools to compare extracts from some of their novels and showed that Dickens used more imagery and words than the more measured and methodical method of Trollop. Each proved effective in recounting the themes that they endeavoured to portray and this has convinced me to add at least one of Trollope’s works to my reading list.
Melvyn Bragg: Now is the Time
I was fortunate to get a late ticket to see this famous TV and radio presenter talk about his historical novel of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Bragg impressively set the events, which took place around the time of the Black Death, in context. At one point he diverged from his discourse to say that he considered that humans emergence from their apelike ancestors was not due to their ability for language (even birds are able to communicate by calling to each other) but due to their development of imagination. Great Scientists such as Newton and Einstein thought about their ideas first then imagined how they worked before putting them to the test. I found this view of human evolution intriguing which leads me to think that this novel will be well worth the read.
An Italian Journey
At 7.30 pm Wednesday writer and publisher, Alessandro Gallenzi, translator, Franca Simpson, and cookbook writer Claudia Roden took part in a discussion on Italian food, language and culture chaired by Lennox Morrison. I was particularly taken by Claudia Roden’s remark that cooking is history and landscape in a saucepan. After the conversation we retired to the Quarterhouse’s upstairs bar to examine their published books and where some delicious Italian cuisine awaited us to sample. It was a most convivial evening.
Gun Baby Gun
This talk by Iain Overton was the most impressive I had so far listened to at the festival and it was a pity that there were so few people in the audience to hear it. In the course of his career as a television journalist for BBC, ITN and Channel 4 he had visited many countries throughout the world and compiled some alarming statistics. In some parts of the USA guns are more available than McDonald’s Hamburgers. It is an indictment of the western world that guns flow from the USA and Europe to fuel violent crime and terrorism in underdeveloped countries while drugs and illegal money flow the other way. I had no hesitation in buying his book and recommend that people and politicians who really want to understand the nature of gun violence do the same.
The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War
Although I disagree with the title of his book and presentation by Jonathan Dimbleby (Hitler was a despot and madman who was bound to loose in the end), I do agree that The Battle of the Atlantic shortened the war and prevented Britain’s surrender. I learnt a number of facts of which I had been previously unaware, such as the German intelligence had been able to read Allied naval messages and pass this information to their U-boat packs or that British Navel and Bomber commanders were constantly arguing about the need to provide air cover for merchant shipping. Dimbleby had obviously done a great deal of research before producing this book and I can recommend that it is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand more about this aspect of The Second World War.