Hey, a festival! But, why?
May 22, 2003 9:01 AM   Subscribe

The Hay Festival of Literature begins tomorrow. Lasting for ten days, and touted as the world's largest literary festival, it is located in Hay-on-Wye (Y-Gelli), the world's first booktown and self-proclaimed Independent Kingdom. Hay-on-Wye is a booklover's paradise (or hell, depending on the state of your credit card), with over 40 incredibly well-stocked bookshops (in a small town of only 2500 people, this means about three bookshops per block). This year's Festival offers a chance to hearfrom the likes of DeLillo, Atwood, Said, Childish and Hitchens, and while some are obviously on-tour and will be standing next to a table of their newest product, the events aren't free. Would you pay to hear your favourite authors read? Has hearing an author changed the way you read his/her book? Which authors have been as entertaining in person, and which have turned you off reading their books forever?
posted by spandex (10 comments total)
Calvin Trillin gave one of the best and funniest readings I've ever heard. He's got great comic timing, and is a hell of a writer.

Michael Isikoff's reading was interesting, and gave me some insight into his politics that didn't come across well in his book.

And Clyde Edgerton gives fabulous readings, often complete with his own original songs.
posted by Vidiot at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2003

(going to expose myself here for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy geek that I am):

Ed Gorman is a consummate teacher, loving the nature of the story and willing to pass it on.

William Gibson pissed me off in a personal conversation at a convention, and nearly turned me off his work for good.

Steven Brust looks and behaves about as cool as you'd expect any of his characters to look and behave. That is to say: He's pretty damn cool.

Tracy Hickman fell out of the Nerd Tree and hit every branch on the way down. Nice fellow.

Margaret Weis gave me a ride once, and I sold her computer equipment in a later life (completely unrelated events). In all her dealings, she presents herself as a genuinely sweet person.

And finally, one of the few times I bothered to partake in chemical influences in college was at a party in Iowa City. My writing mentor had driven a bunch of us down to see his mentor, Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegust impressed me, through the smokey haze, as an immense intellect barely contained in his corporeal form. Of course, that could have been the drugs talking.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2003

Given prior mentions of his work all over MeFi, I don't think I need to provide any ID links for
Douglas Adams. I saw this wonderful, funny, sweet, and taller-than-I-expected man read from "Last Chance to See" at the Macalester College bookstore back in the day, and he graciously signed the promotional poster I swiped when the event was over. (Sigh) The world is a poorer place without him in it.
posted by clever sheep at 11:04 AM on May 22, 2003

I'm boycotting the festival this year because Miguel isn't going to be there. Do you do tours, Miguel?
posted by nylon at 12:13 PM on May 22, 2003

Oh yes, nylon - long ones, chin in hand, round my drinks cabinet, wondering what it is I'll have next.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2003

Terry Pratchett is one of my faves, as is Neil Gaiman...I've heard both of them read and it's great fun.
posted by dejah420 at 2:29 PM on May 22, 2003

As to Hay-on-Wye, I've been there; it may be well-stocked, but I found it consistently over-priced.
posted by raygirvan at 7:28 PM on May 22, 2003

Paul Collins (Author of the highly recommended 'Banvard's Folly') just published a book ('Sixpence House') about his brief experience living in Hay-on-Wye. Worth checking out (A.V. Club review).

This is my first MeFi post after lurking for a few years. Be gentle.
posted by adamkempa at 11:29 PM on May 22, 2003

Which authors have been as entertaining in person

Two I remember fondly are Ishmael Reed, reading one time in Philadelphia, who had a wonderful time enjoying his own material. (As did I.) And Carl Hiaasen speaking at a book fair in rural Florida; he was exactly as funny and charming as his novels.

Somebody (I forget who) once wrote that it's unfair to judge writers in person, though, because the stuff that gets into the books has been edited down to be only their best material, while in real life you have to put up with all of them.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2003

To answer the question posed in the post, no I wouldn't pay. Some are good in person, Martin Amis, Iain Banks and Will Self to spring to mind, but the majority? Droning tweedy types preaching to the converted...

That said, my point of view may have something to do with the fact that I was schooled in Cheltenham and had literature festival overload by the age of 17 or so. I'm sure the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child had stipulations about putting 14 year olds in uniform, sitting then in drafty Victorian halls and forcing them to scratch and fidget along to David Kossoff and his fecking Bible stories..
posted by dmt at 6:49 AM on May 24, 2003

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