Monday, 30 May 2016

Miles Franklin Award Shortlist 2016

On 29 May 2016, the shortlist for the 2016 Award was announced, consisting of:

Hope Farm by Peggy Frew
In this coming of age story set in the 1980s, thirteen year old Silver is taken to a hippie commune by her mother.  Silver longs for stability, while her mother is infatuated by the new man in her life. Mother-daughter relationships, growing up, belonging and first loves are explored. This is the second novel from Frew, after her award winning debut House of Sticks (2010). Frew's book was shortlisted for the Stella Prize.

Leap by Myfanwy Jones                              Twenty-two year old Joe is existing, not living. He works dead end jobs, lives day to day, and has abandoned all ambitions. He is struggling with grief, loss, and guilt. Elsie too is struggling through a  bad marriage, spending her days watching tigers at the Melbourne Zoo, trying to cope with her grief. Author of The Rainy Season (2009), Jones is a Melbourne based writer.

Black Rock White City by A C Patric                A Serbian couple have migrated to Melbourne after the Bosnian war. Jovan is a cleaner at a hospital while Suzanah is a carer. Both have unseen scars from the trauma of war, as they rebuild themselves in a new land. AC Patric is an award winning author of short stories, including Las Vegas for Vegans, and this is his first novel. 

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar                                     It's 1855 and fifteen year old Hester Finch lives in Adelaide with her family. Her father decides to move the family to Salt Creek, a remote property in South Australia. Here they learn about the Ngarrindjeri people and adapt to a new life. Treloar is best known for her short stories. Salt Creek is her debut novel.

The Natural Way of Things
 by Charlotte Wood  (read review)
Wood's novel has been compared to Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale and as such is definitely on my reading list. Two women are drugged and taken to an isolated property where they find they are imprisoned with eight other girls. Each has a common past for which they are being punished in this powerful feminist novel. Winner of the Stella Prize 2016.

The prize will be announced in June 2016. I still reckon Charlotte Wood will (and should) win, after receiving the Stella Prize, the Independent Book Award and other accolades.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Sydney Writers' Festival 2016 - Day 4

My SWF for 2016 is drawing to a close and as I travelled into the festival for the last day I reflected on my experiences - talking books, meeting authors, learning about different writing styles - and I feel refreshed and inspired. Here's what I got up to on my last day at the festival.

Coffee and Papers

I met a friend early in the morning for coffee and a catch up. We met at the Theatre Bar at the end of the Wharf where we could listen to writers talk about current affairs. Today Julia Leigh and Marie Darrieusecq were in attendance. Leigh has just published a book, Avalanche, about her journey with IVF which she wrote in the weeks following her last unsuccessful treatment. Darrieussecq spoke about the blurring lines of fiction and non-fiction and how books are not so distinctly segmented in Europe. While interesting, we left early as we had to head off to our first sessions.

Julia Leigh (2nd from left) and Marie Darriessecq (2nd from right)

Our Darker Selves

I was grateful this panel session was on as I had been looking at attending sessions with Mark Tedeschi and Paula Hawkins individually, but could not fit them into my Festival program. So this panel session was perfect as I could hear from all these authors.

Koch, Tedeschi, Hawkins and Condon
The topic was about what makes us attracted to wickedness, and this panel of writers have all explored the darker side of humanity with their books.

Paula Hawkins is the author of the best selling The Girl on the Train (2015) which is about to be released as a feature film. Hawkins said she has 'no great interest in domestic bliss' and that what she wants to explore is 'how do people get from their normal boring lives to a point of depravity'. She used to be a romance writer (under a pen-name) and decided that 'finding Mr Wrong is much more interesting than Mr Right'.

Mark Tedeschi QC is one of Australia's leading Crown Prosecutors, having prosecuted cases like Ivan Milat, the murder of Victor Chang, and the assassination of John Newman, knows a thing or two about people who have a dark side. He has recently written a book, Kidnapped (2016) about the 1960 abduction of Graeme Thorne, a young boy who was kidnapped after his parents won a major lottery. In speaking about why people are so drawn to crime and true crime books, Tedeschi said 'We all have little bits of violence within us. It intrigues us because we can identify with it."

Herman Koch is a Dutch writer who has written Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and The Dinner (2009) which both feature violent crimes. Just as he was at the Gala on Friday night, Koch had everyone laughing with his stories of petty crimes in his youth. He spoke about how people like characters that are unlikeable, pointing to TV figures Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White.

The moderator of this session was Australian journalist and author Matthew Condon, who asked really insightful questions about getting into the headspace of a killer, building suspense, sympathising with perpetrators and revenge. They spoke about areas that they would not want to write about and agreed that terrorism, child assault and pedophilia were all crimes they would not want to explore in their works. After the session I met Paula Hawkins and she signed a copy of The Girl on the Train for me.

Our Reading Year

I am a fan of journalists Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. I listen to their Chat 10 Looks 3 podcast and I watch their When I Get a Minute show. I know their schtick: banter, books and baked goods. So in many ways I did not need to attend this session and I was fearful that it would be nothing new.
Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales.

But it was great fun to see them in person talking about their reading year (even if they did debate over calendar year vs financial year).

Books they recommended included One on One by Craig Brown which sounds absolutely intriguing - 101 interlinked stories of true encounters. Annabel Crabb said she has given this book to people on a number of occasions and thinks it is 'so crackers but so good!'

Annabel also has enjoyed Stoner (1965) by John Williams and Fates and Furies (2015) by Lauren Groff. She spoke about how Australia does not  really have any books about college life.

They spoke about A Little Life (2015) by Hania Yanigihari and what a challenge it was to read. Sales stopped reading it as she wasn't enjoying it, while Crabb persevered without enjoying the last half.

Leigh Sales liked My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, who also wrote Olive Kittridge. She also recently read Anna Funder's Girl with the Dogs, which is a reworking of a Chekov short story. She has also enjoyed biographies by Magda Subanski and Amanda Keller.

They spoke about memoirs by Gregg Fleet, Richard Glover, Julia Leigh and others. They both enjoy long-form journalism such as articles in Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and Paris Match. Along the way they mentioned other books that sound interesting and I have taken note of.

When they opened for questions they were flooded with baked goods from attendees. In the end, I didn't really learn anything new but I enjoyed spending an hour with these two friends.

Frank Moorhouse on George Eliot

For my final session of the Festival I chose this one so I could spend an hour with one of Australia's literary legends Frank Moorhouse talking about one of my favourite authors, George Eliot.

The format of this session was different than they others I attended. Moorhouse delivered a lecture on Eliot and then spoke with Elizabeth Johnstone for a while about Eliot and her influence on Moorhouse.

Elizabeth Johnstone and Frank Moorhouse

Moorhouse said that a few years ago he started to re-read George Eliot: Middlmearch, Mill on the Floss, Scenes form a Clerical Life, Silas Mariner, Adam Bede, and Daniel Deronda. The only one he didn't re-read was Romola.

Eliot wrote about country life in the 1800s during a period of social, religious, cultural and industrial change. Moorhouse said that there is 'a clear gap between our time in hers, but distance shrank' as he read. He could draw clear parallels between Eliot's England and his early life in Nowra NSW.

He spoke about gender identity in Eliot's books and the 'growing restlessness of women'. In terms of women's rights, he said that "George Eliot would be astounded that things are still grim."

He spoke about his own novels, especially the Edith Campbell Berry trilogy (Grand Days, Dark Palace and Cold Light) and said that Eliot would have got on well with this character. After the session I met Frank Moorhouse and he signed a copy of Grand Days (1993) for me.

So that is the end of my festival. I had a wonderful time and enjoyed myself immensely. The festival atmosphere was vibrant and the festival staff and volunteers did an amazing job. Now all I have to do is finish all of these books before the next festival!

Today's book signings included:

  • Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train
  • Frank Moorhouse - Grand Days

Monday, 23 May 2016

Sydney Writers' Festival 2016 - Day 3

On Saturday 21 May 2016 I didn't have any sessions booked until midday, expecting I would be tired after the events of the previous day. But instead I woke up enthusiastic for another day at the festival so I headed in to the venue early to see what I could see.

Writing Live Subjects

This was a free session I stumbled upon and it was a great find. Margot Saville moderated the panel, talking with journalists and authors Kerry O'Brien, Catharine Lumby and Martin Flanagan about the challenges and delights of writing biographies of people who are alive.

Kerry O'Brien has recently published his book on former Prime Minister Paul Keating, simply titled Keating (2016).  He spoke of how he has known Keating for 40 years  and the parallel universes in which he and Keating operated - from their similar backgrounds as growing up, to both arriving in Canberra around the same time. Keating gave O'Brien terrific access and his only caveat was around limiting the amount of content related to his family.

Martin Flanagan has written a book,  The Short Long Story (2015), about Aboriginal footballer Michael Long. He spoke of the difficulty in writing a book about a sportsman who doesn't like to talk about himself or about sports. Flanagan's style is to write collaboratively, to make sure the subject is happy with the book in the end. Flanagan's brother Richard was sitting behind me in the audience, but unfortunately I did not bring a copy of his Booker Prize winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013) with me to sign.

Catharine Lumby is currently writing a biography of Australian author Frank Moorhouse. She spoke of 'grappling with the ethics' of writing the biography, as while Moorhouse is extremely open, Lumby does want to ensure she causes no harm to those around Moorhouse (e.g. past lovers). Lumby believes you need to have an intense like of a subject in order to spend so much time on that subject.

Flanagan, Lumby, O'Brien and Saville
This was a really interesting session and I may one day read O'Brien's book on Keating as it sounds very good, and Lumby's will be fascinating once it is published.

Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings

Having seen Marlon James the night before talking about Toni Morrison's Sula, I was really looking forward to hearing him speak about his own novel, the Booker Prize winning A Brief History of Seven Killings (2015).

Marlon James and Michael Cathcart
Michael Cathcart from Radio National spoke with Marlon James in a recording for RN which was peppered with brief samples from Bob Marley's songs 'No Woman No Cry', 'Get Up Stand Up' and Clapton's cover of 'I Shot The Sheriff'.

James spoke of the setting for his book, 1970s Jamaica, and what was happening in the country at the time. He described the racism that persisted in the colonies, where there was a clear line between white and black, and how many young people ended up in gangs.

The book is centred on an assassination attempt on Bob Marley and so James was asked about the singer. James said "Marley for me was never a person, just a series of news reports" as he heard about Marley in the third person through the media. James said "when I write I kind of turn into a journalist, I have no emotional stake in what I write." But still, he was intrigued by the attack on Marley and said "I write novels to try and solve the mysteries."

James was asked about the violence in the book and read out several passages. He was also asked about the patois dialogue and the non-linear structure of the book. On the latter, James said "I started with weird branches and only later I realised I had a tree."

James spoke about growing up in Jamaica, the son of a police detective mother and lawyer father ('She put them in to jail and he got them out'), his involvement in the church and his love of Prince.

After the session I met James and he signed a copy of his book for me. I have started reading the book on my ereader, and had to purchase a hard copy so he could sign it - a problem I have had a few times this festival.

Elizabeth Harrower: A Celebration

I was extremely excited to attend this session with one of Australia's greatest writers. Eighty-eight year old Elizabeth Harrower rarely gives interviews, so it was a genuine privilege to sit in a room with her and hear her talk about her brilliant career.

Joined by her publisher, Michael Heyward from Text, Harrower has had an interesting career. She wrote several books in the 1950s and then disappeared from the literary landscape until just a few years ago when she was rediscovered and republished by Text. Her latest collection of stories, A Few Days in the Country (2015), was recently shortlisted for the Stella Prize.
Michael Heyward and Elizabeth Harrower
Harrower was born in Newcastle in 1928 to a Scottish mother who didn't have money for books. But when she could she read Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and the works of Kipling. Even as a young girl Harrower would write letters, compositions at school and other works. Her mother was very encouraging and 'she deserved a better daughter than the one she got'.

In the 1950s she left Australia by sea to travel to England. 'I was extremely pleased to leave Australia. I realised Australia was like another planet, the moon. The world was out there waiting for you to discover it.' she said. Harrower described the voyage, the scents and sights of Ceylon, Bombay and other stops on the voyage and said 'my journey convinced me more and more that life was ahead.'

She spoke of how she started to write and published four novels in ten years: Down in the City (1957), The Long Prospect (1958), The Catherine Wheel (1960) and The Watch Tower (1966). She returned to Australia and wrote In Certain Circles which she withdrew from publication following a disagreement with her publisher, until it was redisovered and published by Text in 2014.

Harrower spoke of her books, her characters, her friendship with Patrick White and the pleasure she has had in the last four years since her work was brought back into print.

It was such a delight to spend an hour with this wonderfully witty, articulate woman. After the session she signed a copy of A Few Days In The Country for me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet her.

Ferrante Fever

My last session of the day was with 2000 Elena Ferrante fans at Sydney's Town Hall. Susan Wyndham (Sydney Morning Herald) chaired this session, featuring journalist Emma Alberici, authors Drusilla Modjeska and Benjamin Law, and Ferrante's English translator Ann Goldstein.

Alberici, Goldstein, Wyndham, Modjeska and Law
I was keen to attend this session as I wanted to hear about why Ferrante's Neapolitan novels had become such a must-read series. Admittedly, I have struggled to get into the series and am only about a third of the way into the first book, My Brilliant Friend (2012). Of the 2000 attendees most had read at least one Ferrante, while about a third had read all of her works.

The panelists spoke about how they approached Ferrante - some read one and took a gap before reading the others, some binge-read all in one go, and another read via audio book to fit it into her busy lifestyle.

They spoke about recurring themes - the dolls, domestic violence, and choosing the wrong man - and about the enduring relationship of the two central characters. They acknowledged the talents of Ferrante to write books that were, as Benjamin Law described, 'structurally moreish' with short chapters, cliff hangers and an almost soap opera quality to it.

Modjeski described the books like Box Sets DVDs and how she binge read the books like you would binge watch a compelling TV program.

There was a lot of discussion about patriarchal Naples and the underbelly of violence, limited choices for women and the complexity of relationships.  They also spoke of the characters they loved and hated.

Goldstein talked about her translation process, how she does not know the mysterious Ferrante (only corresponding with her via the publisher) and how she only learned Italian in her late thirties so she could read Dante in the original language.

I got what I wanted with this session, coming away with a desire to binge read the books. It is clear that my reading method - few pages here and there - will not cut it and I just need to invest some time to kick off my reading in a more serious way.

So, that is day three done. During the day I also caught up with a few other authors and got some books signed. Books signed by authors today include:

  • Elizabeth Harrower -  A Few Days In The Country 
  • Marlon James - A Brief History of Seven Killings 
  • Tegan Bennett Daylight - Six Bedrooms

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sydney Writers' Festival 2016 - Day 2

Day two of my festival is my most action-packed, with back-to-back sold out sessions.  This was the day I have been waiting for, as I would be seeing the legendary Gloria Steinem today.

Here's what I got up to on a sunny Friday 20 May 2016 in Sydney.

History and Fiction: William Boyd and Julian Barnes

The program asks "Can fiction go where history fears to tread?" - a provocative question about where fiction and fact coincide. The session was chaired by Amelia Lester.

I was looking forward to this session as I really like Julian Barnes as a writer. He writes short novels which are crisp, sharp and literary. I enjoyed his Booker Prize winning The Sense of an Ending (2011), and want to read his latest novel The Noise of Time (2016) about composer Shostakovich in Stalinist Russia. Barnes admitted he has had a great 2016 so far. His book was published, he turned 70 and his beloved Leicester City FC won the Premier League.

William Boyd is a screenwriter and author. His most recent novel is Sweet Caress (2015). I have not read his work, but following this session I am intrigued. Sweet Caress is what he calls a 'whole of life novel, from cradle to grave'. Boyd said that most 'orthodox novels' give you a snapshot into someone's life but you may not know what happened before or after the events in the tale. He wanted to explore the whole of a character's life so the reader feels an intense familiarity.

Boyd spoke of the writer's craft and capturing the mundane aspects of life. He said that 'lives are not continually exciting, so if it is to be true, there needs to be boring bits. The challenge for the writer is how to write the boring bits in an interesting way.'

Lester, Boyd and Barnes
In terms of history and fiction, Boyd said that 'we can go as a novelist, where biographer's can not go' in that novelists can take facts and creatively expand upon them. Barnes relayed a funny story about his grandparents who kept diaries in their retirement. Each day they would read conflicting accounts from their diaries about what happened one year ago. He said that 'diaries are partial and unreliable' and as such can be a great device for fiction writers.

This was a humorous, erudite session which covered topics like photography, copyright, and technical devices in fiction such as lists. After the session I met Barnes and he signed a copy of The Sense of an Ending for me.

My Reading Life: Jonathan Franzen

International best seller Jonathan Franzen is speaking a couple of times at the Festival, mostly about his latest novel Purity (2015). I chose this session as I am keen to hear what writers inspire his works.

I have not yet read Purity but admire his earlier works, particularly The Corrections (2001). As a bonus, he was speaking with Tegan Bennett Daylight, author of Six Bedrooms, an author I enjoy.

This discussion was a meandering journey through Franzen's reading life. He explained that his parents were not readers, but new books were important despite their absence in the house. His earliest memory is of reading Dr Doolittle and, perhaps because he had no pets, he loved any book with animals (especially talking animals).

In his childhood he enjoyed the Narnia series, Peanuts and Harriet the Spy. As he reached high school he moved into Sci-Fi reading golden age authors like Azimov, Heinlein, Bradbury and Clarke.

Tegan Bennett Daylight and Jonathan Franzen

He said that his parents didn't want him to major in English, so he studied German and was introduced to the German moderates - Thomas Mann, Rilke, Kafka, Nietzcshe and the like. He read Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon and other books that were rather bleak.

The books he read during the writing of The Corrections include the works of Christina Stead, Alice Munro, Jane Smiley, Paula Fox. The books he has enjoyed most recently are the works of Edward St Auben, Elena Ferrante and Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicle.

After the session I met Franzen and he signed a book for me.

How to Change the World

I met my festival friend at this session to hear from three incredible Australians whom I greatly admire. Catherine Keenan moderated the panel.

Keenan, Brown, Batty and Garrett

Rosie Batty was Australian of the Year in 2015 for her work on countering domestic violence. I have not read her memoir, about how her son Luke was killed by his father and how she then became the voice against domestic violence in A Mother's Story (2015). 

Batty is such an admirable woman:  generous, articulate, empathetic and passionate. She spoke about how 'I've always had a desire to make my life count for something' and that Luke's death was a catalyst forher calling. She was asked whether she would be interested in a career in politics and responded that she may at some point but feels she 'can achieve more when I am independent and not aligned'.

Peter Garrett has released a memoir, Big Blue Sky (2015) covering his life from Midnight Oil lead singer to Labor Minister. I have always admired Garrett for his commitment to public and early childhood education as well as the environment. 

Garrett spoke of his lifetime of activism and the achievements stemming from his decade in politics: Gonski education reforms, national disability insurance scheme, the carbon price. He spoke of his optimism and the mistaken public perception of politics, not understanding the hard work involved.

The final panelist was former Greens leader Bob Brown, a tireless conservationist and author of his memoir Optimism (2014).

Brown was perhaps the most outspoken of the bunch and pledges he 'will campaign for the environment until I die!' He spoke of the 'rampant age of materialism' and the need for grass roots activism.  He said it is not enough to like something, post a meme or sign a petition - that we need to get active. He also said we should not vote for ourselves but for our grandchildren as the decisions we make today have a lasting impact. 

This was a wonderfully optimistic panel and I left feeling heartened by the words.

Leadership: Then and Now

Our next session featured three journalists talking about the changing nature of Australian Politics. Margot Saville chaired this session, the author of Battle for Bennelong (2007) about Maxine McKew's victory over John Howard.

Saville, Kelly, Savva and Van Onselen

Peter van Onselen is a regular presenter on Sky News, an editor at The Australian and author of Battleground. He spoke of how it is both the system and the leaders that need fixing. He feels that 'Rudd and Abbott were ready made failures... But Gillard had potential'. He expressed disappointment that she was not able to succeed but admits that the way she came to power meant she was never going to stand a chance.

Niki Savva is the author of The Road to Ruin (2016) which I have literally just finished. Much of what Savva had to say I knew from her book. She feels that Abbott was lacking in self belief and that he never looked comfortable in the role of Prime Minister. She said one of the main problems was that in the eight months before the fatal budget, they never laid the groundwork to explain what they were doing and why.

Paul Kelly is the author of may books on Australian politics. He disagreed with Savva and believes the political system is flawed, making governing difficult.  He said there are too many challenges resulting in government being unable to produce the public policy we need.  

They discussed past PM/Treasurer partnerships that worked well together, the importance of the Cabinet process and the challenges with the Senate. Unfortunately we did not spend too much time talking about current election.

After the session Savva signed a copy of her book for me. 

Life on the Road: Gloria Steinem

This was the session I have been waiting for. Gloria Steinem headlines this year's festival and this particular session sold out early on. I attended this session with two good friends. 

Steinem has recently published her memoir, My Life on the Road (2016). She spoke with Jennifer Byrne about her life. As a young girl she travelled with her parents from their home in the mid-west to Florida or California in search of the sun each winter. She described the loving home she grew up in, never feeling insecure.

Steinem's mother was a journalist who was quite a pioneer for her time, but her 'mother lost her journey because my father had his journey'. Her mother was unable to follow her passions because of her marriage and, her spirit broken, ended up having a nervous breakdown. She wrote about her mother in an essay "Ruth's Song Because She Could Not Sing It" in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983). She spoke of how we are 'living out the unlived lives of our parents' and how mother's should be able to live their own lives.

Steinem was asked how she found feminism and she said 'feminism found me'. She spoke about her early days as the 'girl reporter' unable to get a decent assignment, how she was dismissed by the men around her, how she was concerned about her reproductive freedom ('controlling reproduction is what patriarchy does'), and how the failure of feminism is that we have been 'too nice'.

In her book she documents her journey, and Steinem has been at many key moments in history (like attending the Martin Luther King  'I have a dream' speech in Washington in 1963). Steinem says 'when history's being made, you don't know it is being made'.

She spoke about American politics, her admiration of Obama, her hope for Clinton, and her disgust at Trump ('a candidate of resentment'). She also spoke of the issues she cares about and has produced a new documentary series on - domestic violence, child marriage, etc.

Along the way we learned that she was horse crazy as a girl, she tap dances ('only when nobody's looking') and, at 82 she remains a 'hopeaholic' - ever optimistic about the future. She also is totally groovy in her unique style.

Steinem did not disappoint. She was articulate, warm, and inspiring. I particularly admired the way she handled audience questions, supporting young girls or those who had been in bad situations. She is a truly phenomenal woman.

After the session I was able to meet her, and she signed a copy of My Life On The Road for me. Although we only spoke briefly, she has the kind of presence that makes you feel like you are the only person in the room. I feel so privileged for having had this moment with her.

SWF Gala: The Book that Changed Me

This session brings out many authors to discussed the books that shaped them. Hosted by Richard Glover, panelist were Jeanette Winterson, Kate Tempest, Vivian Gornick, Herman Koch, Marlon James and Andrew Denton.  Each took turns to talk about their chosen book.

Glover, Denton, Winterson, Gornick, James, Tempest and Koch 

Herman Koch spoke about James Joyce's Dubliners. He was struggling as a young writer, had just lost his girlfriend to another writer and so this book, especially the story 'A Little Cloud' inspired him to write his first published story. Koch was very witty, talking about how his writing improved with whisky.

Vivian Gornick's chosen book was The Odd Women by George Gissing, saying 'his book struck me to the nerve'. Gornick feels that 'you read the book you need at the time you need it' and that this book came along when she was feeling like an outsider, struggling to pull it all together.

Marlon James chose Sula by Toni Morrison. He spoke of a time when he wasn't happy with himself and he was struggling to meet the imagined expectations of those around him. There is a line in Sula which was a 'fall of the chair moment' for him where Sula says 'Show to who?" as she did not need to meet anyone's approval. It was at that moment that he realised he was only responsible to himself.

Kate Tempest selected a book of poetry called War Music by Christopher Logue. She described it as an account of Homer's Iliad. She then read a section of it and I was blown away by her talents, just as I was blown away by her poetry at the end of QnA last week. I look forward to reading her Brand New Ancients.

Andrew Denton joked that he was the 'eye candy' on the panel as he is not an author. Bt he spoke about Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which he read when he was 19. He was already questioning 'the mass insanity of organised religion' and this book helped him to understand that 'improbability' was part of the 'vast unknowable.'

Finally Jeanette Winterson spoke about her chosen book Orlando by Virginia Woolf. She spoke about how her mother never encouraged her to read because 'the trouble with a book is that you never know what's in it until it's too late'. She read Orlando and realised that gender is fluid. It was also a perfect counter to Radcliffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness which Winterson describes as the 'worst book ever'.

Well, that is day two over and I am now at the half way point of my festival. The absolute highlight for me today was meeting Gloria Steinem. She has always been a hero of mine and to meet her and speak with her was wonderful.

Books signed by authors today include:

  • Julian Barnes - The Sense of an Ending (2011)
  • Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections (2001)
  • Niki Savva - The Road to Ruin (2016) 
  • Gloria Steinem - Life on the Road (2016)