Just off to see Tom Fort talk on his new book The Village News; The Truth Behind England’s Rural Idyll as part of the Hungerford Literary Festival. I’m also suffering from a huge bout of wanderlust at the moment, so excited about the talk tonight from travel guru Alastair Sawday.
The theme for the weekend is ‘journeys’ and culminates with a talk tomorrow night from Jules Mountain who conquered both Mount Everest and cancer.
Check out the line-up here and I’ll take this opportunity to post a review I wrote on Will Self at the neighbouring Marlborough LitFest a couple of weeks ago 🙂
Friday, 29th September.
“There’s barely anyone under 40 in here” observed novelist and journalist Will Self during his talk to a full Town Hall at the opening of the eighth Marlborough Literature Festival on Friday night.
The ‘ageing’ audience might well be a reflection of Self’s own protagonist Dr Zack Busner, who is now almost 80 in his latest work, Phone, the final novel in Self’s trilogy. The collection explores the inter-relationship between psychopathology, warfare, and technology. Each of the three novels explores emerging technologies and how they can ruin our collective mental health.
The consequences of this are all around us, Self says. In Phone, Busner is in the early days of dementia.
“Pathologies that have come to the fore are Alzheimers and Autism – things that we’d barely heard of 25 years ago. Now they’re all we hear about.”
The first in the series, Umbrella, tells of Busner’s interactions with encephalitis lethargica sufferers and “awakening” them using the drug L-Dopa. Shark is named after the fate of the Indianapolis. This was the ship that delivered the nuclear bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima. More than a thousand of its crew perished in after being torpedoed by the Japanese – languishing in the water in a shark attack, some say, as punishment for their part in the war.
Fittingly for a literature festival, he also talked movingly on the future of books. Fans of the printed word will be reassured to hear that in 2016, sales of physical books increased. But Self says literature is losing its place in society and claims the increase is ‘cannibalistic’ as many of these titles were written by vloggers.
Self wasn’t sure whether to take questions, citing “Brexit” as the reason why. One poor soul who argued the case for antidepressants got short shrift, putting paid to any other questions.
Self is a force of nature and his talk will be on people’s minds for a long time to come. A fitting opening for the Marlborough Literary Festival.