Monday, 24 June 2013

Worlds Literature Festival 2013:
A preface and a spoon

Sjön's Mr Spoon (without scarf)

This year's World's had been one of the best so far and most stimulating. But what is Worlds?

Worlds is a five day festival of readings and discussions, or salons, involving a group of roughly forty writers from all over the world. They are writers with international reputations and have included Nobel Prize winners. Three hours of the day are spent in salons based on two 'provocations' by7 specific writers, each followed by an open discussion with a drinks break in between. This is followed by free afternoon readings that are open to the public, a dinner, then more public events or readings. It's very full indeed, one event immediately following on another. The broad outline including most, but not all, the evening events is here, the full list of participants is here, the previous year's programme 2012 is here.  The organisation of these marvellous events involve both the Writers Centre, Norwich and the UEA, the first under the direction of Chris Gribble, the second under the direction of Jon Cook, who also chairs most of the salons.

I have been very privileged to be present at a number of them, perhaps four or five. I blogged 2012 here, here and here. (Interestingly when I look for these on my own blog it is the Goodreads site that comes up - I can't remember if I knew that Goodreads was using it, but never mind.)

And here is the 2011 Worlds with an audio of my summing up. I have also been responsible for the summings up of the last two years, The text below is in fact this year's summing up of the salons. I will write a separate post on the readings and then one more on a special reading that was also a book launch. So there will be three posts of which this is the first. I may write a fourth to pick up any stray points.

This time the first three salons and most of the afternoon readings were held at The Hostry of Norwich Cathedral, a marvellously light and airy room. The last session however was at the UEA Council Chamber and that is where my summing up took place. It begins by referring to the difference between the two venues and by noting the concern that authors continue to feel about the future of the literary book in the face of pressure from both the commercialisation of the 'standard' novel and from the new and possibly different readership created by the internet. The first anxiety seems now to be greater than the second, which argues a certain adjustment among writers to the ways of the web, and even a degree of excitement about it. 

Sjön began by inviting us to consider the lullaby and suggesting that story telling is a development of the way the mother sings the child to sleep, that it was in fact a metaphorical mother's milk that sustained us. From his point of view the receiver of the story is not so much the reader as the audience - in other words we must think of literature as primarily oral. There was some discussion of the distinction between plot and story - the terms used as the salons are less firmly defined than they might be at a scholarly conference - and Sjön demionstrated the art of story telling by recounting the adventures of a spoon, referred to as Mr Spoon, at the end of which he produced a real spoon with a ribbon around it, thus ending the story with a piece of magic. 

Hence the spoon at the top, and hence the following playfulness with objects

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