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Literary Festivals

If there is already a catagory like this I apologise and hope the powers that be can move this to the correct place.
I've enjoyed the Cheltenham Literary Festival this week and wanted to tell you about it.
On Monday I heard Marc Morris talking about his book on Edward 1st. He was a fantastic talker and the book sounded very interesting.
On Tuesday I heard 3 lectures. The first was a talk by Frank McLynn about the roman emporer Marcus Aurelius. He was not such a gifted speaker and I was rather underwhelmed, though his book may be well written I am not inspired to look at it.
Then I went to Paul Cartledge outlining his book on Ancient Greeek City states. What an inspirational talk! He was just a pleasure to listen to and was cheered loudly at the end. I shall certainly look for his book. The ciry state he discussed was Marseilles, which I had no idea was founded by the Greeks.
Then, in the afternoon, there was Robert Harris. Although not high class literature I find him an enjoyable author and will certainly be wanting to read his latest book, Lustrum, which is a continuation of his series on Cicero. He was also rather interesting on his relationship with Roman Polanski who's latest film was based on one of Robert Harris's books.
On Thursday I went with a friend to hear Hilary Mantel and Tracy Chevalier talk about their latest books. I was lucky as I'd booked it before Hilary won the Booker and it was a fascinating discussion where they both read out extracts from their books. I had no idea Tracy Chevalier is American Smile My friend has got Wolf Hall so I'm in the queue to borrow it and I might buy Tracy Chevalier's book on Mary Anning who was a victorian fossil hunter.
Has anyone else been there?

No, it's a bit of a trip for me  Very Happy But, I would have loved to hear Robert Harris - love his Roman works, especially the one about Cicero's secretary and Tracy Chevalier - greatly enjoy her, too.

Last weekend I went on a course in Cambridge about Georgette Heyer and promised I would put my notes up here. I know Caro will be interested and maybe others who enjoy her books.
Re-reading Georgette Heyer
Notes from a course on November 8th at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.
Jennifer Kloester : The Life of Georgette Heyer
Jenny has nearly finished a new biography of Georgette Heyer and has managed to unearth lots of new correspondence and details about her life. She was able to get help both from Jane Aiken Hodge and Richard Rougier, Georgette’s son, before their recent deaths and has managed to correct a few inaccuracies. She thinks Georgette was devastated by the sudden death of her father and that was why she became such a private person.  Jenny’s enthusiasm was a great pleasure to share – ‘open and unaffected’.
Jay Dixon :  Heyer and Place
Jay concentrated her lecture on Georgette Heyer’s use of place in the South of England, an area where she herself lives. She commented on how little actual description of scenery there is in the books but how, despite using few words, there is still a vivid sense of place in them. However houses are often given more detailed description – especially the interiors. We all recognised the lovely picture of the inside of the Lynton’s town house once Mr Chawleigh had done it up!  ‘Elegant’.
Laura Vivanco : The Nonesuch as Didactic Love Fiction
The premise of this talk was that this book is quietly educating us and that that is something Georgette Heyer does. I am assuming you know the book as you read this as it would be boring to sum it up now; so, if you don’t know it, go and read it now! 
Tiffany’s heartless behaviour gets punished by the loss of her admirers. Patience’s virtue is rewarded by the hand of Lord Lynton. Waldo Hawkridge gets Miss Trent because he is unaffected by the hero-worship  of the inhabitants of the small town in which he is staying and, in fact, he is a good influence as he persuades the young that it is important to have good form rather than show off. A lot is made of Ancilla’s desire to educate (even if it is a bit tongue in cheek) and time shows that Waldo, too, wishes to help the young. This was a very amusing talk by Laura.  ‘Spirited’
Mary Joannou : Heyer and Austen
Sadly I can tell you very little about this interesting talk because I couldn’t hear most of what Ms Joannou was saying. She had a quiet voice, a strong accent and a habit of covering her mouth while speaking. The bits I caught sounded fascinating .  My sister, who was also there, tells me that she had some interesting things to say about the changing attitude to what counts as literature during the 20th Century – does it have to be difficult to read – like Proust – before it can be seen as ‘good’?  Talking about the different assumptions about behaviour between Austen and Heyer, she commented on the impossibility of envisaging any Austen character doing what Sophie did in confronting the moneylender complete with pistol.  She waxed enthusiastic about the way Heyer used sartorial detail to give information about her characters, whereas Austen gives us little detail on how her people dressed.  ‘A well informed mind.’
Sam Rayner : Publishing Heyer : Representing the Regency in Historical Romance
This was such fun as Sam was so enthusiastic about her subject and had some excellent visual aids. She showed us the covers that Georgette Heyer herself approved of which showed quiet and serious covers in proper regency clothes. Once the paperback editions came out, however, the illustrators obviously were thinking about how to make sales and certainly didn’t want to spend time reading the book! We were all in fits of laughter at some of the examples Sam showed us and it was really interesting to see how they followed the fashions of the day. As she explained, these may have had a bad affect on sales, as it gave a completely false idea of the sort of book one would be buying. We all enjoyed a nostalgic look at the old Pan covers by the way!  ‘Diverting’
Kerstin Frank : The Thermodynamics of Georgette Heyer
Kerstin first explained that thermodynamics is a term from physics that deals with the relationships between heat and other forms of energy.. Linking this to Georgette Heyer, Kerstin investigated how the hot and cold behaviour of her protagonists affects the way the story develops. She gave us a worksheet to illustrate what she meant. One example was when Freddy Standon, in Cotillion, turns to adjust his cravat when Jack was ready to start an argument. According to Kerstin, most of Georgette Heyer’s heroes are bored and cold and it is only when meeting the heroine that this carapace begins to crack and they show real warmth. A good example of this would be the change in Mr Beaumaris after he gets to know Arabella.  ‘Refreshing’
Catherine Johns : Class and Breeding
This was a fascinating lecture. Catherine showed us how Georgette Heyer was not only writing about the Regency period, but also reflecting the attitudes that were in the society she grew up in. She has often been accused of snobbery but Catherine used examples to illustrate Georgette Heyer’s value of people from other classes and her disgust at the snobbish behaviour of such characters as Sir Nugent Fotherby.
The late 19th and early 20th century was a time when there were many theories about class and breeding. After the agricultural revolution selective breeding had changed the appearance of many animals almost beyond recognition. Darwin had described natural selection and many people looked for signs of such things in human beings. Just as it would be unlikely to breed dogs by mixing a Dachshund and a Great Dane, it was seen as inadvisable to marry outside one’s own class as they were almost different breeds of people. Because of the terrible experience of Hitler’s treatment of Jews and other racial types this sort of mind set is unacceptable nowadays but in Georgette Heyer’s time it was perfectly usual. An extreme example of this belief in eugenics is in Leonie’s innate classiness, despite being brought up by a peasant family and their true son, brought up by the Saint Vires, being uncomfortable in polite society and always wishing to be a farmer.  ‘Vibrant’
Professor Sarah Annes  Brown : Lady of Quality and Homosexual Panic
This sparkling lecture was given by the lady who had organised the day and it was great fun. First she defined homosexual panic as   an acute, extreme anxiety reaction brought on by circumstances that induce the unconscious fear of being homosexual or of succumbing to homosexual impulses. She explained it is usually talked about by something suffered by Gay men, but in this book she looked at it from the point of view of lesbianism. The heroine, Annis, has lived to nearly thirty without wishing to be married or liking any man. She then sets up house with a lady who adores her and becomes extremely jealous when Annis rescues a pretty girl in distress and takes her to live with her.( I think you can all probably see where this is going!). Of course Annis does fall for a man, in the end, but the whole talk was very entertaining.  ‘An agreeable encounter’

K. Elizabeth Spillman : Cross Dressing and Disguise in Heyer ‘s Historical Romance
There are four Georgette Heyers that contain cross dressing – The Masqueraders,  The Talisman Ring, These Old Shades and The Corinthian. Ms Spillman traced this as a device used from early drama, especially Shakespeare. However the advantages of putting this into the plots of these books is that it enables Heyer’s heroines much more freedom of movement and the ability to act outside their proscribed gender roles.  She suggested that Goergette Heyer had three ways of giving her heroines power – by dressing as men, through men, and finally with the older heroines of the older books like Frederica and The Grand Sophy, in their own right ‘Incomparable’

There was a chance for some general discussion at the end and everyone was loud in their appreciation of the day. Many people were keen to repeat the experience and, since the course was over- subscribed, I imagine there would be lots of takers. It was hoped that it might be a biannual event. Many of us there gave in our email addresses to try and set up a debate on line.  I’m really looking forward to that!

Its time for the Cheltenham Literary Festival again so here is the link to browse through if any of you are interested:

Ann, I briefly saw your post on the Georgette Heyer conference/workshop, but I think it was as we were going away somewhere and then I just forgot about it.  Some of those names are familiar to me from a Heyer listserve I used to belong to - Jay Dixon's especially.  I like the sound of that last contributor on cross-dressing and the ways Heyer gives power to her women.  (Of course some of them seem much less powerful, though as soon as I thought that I realised they were still given power in a more subtle form - I am thinking of Phoebe whose care for the child and sensible behaviour gave her kudos and A Civil Contract where the heroine (forgotten her name!) gets her power again from a sort of sensibleness and knowledge that her man will like stability and food and comfort as a contrast to a high state of emotion.

That would indeed have been a fascinating course to be present at.

Cheers, Caro. (and sorry for the tardy response)

Just finished the week at Cheltenham again. I went to six lectures of which the best was Roy Hattersley talking about his new biography of David Lloyd George. He spoke brilliantly, without notes, and answered questions with erudition and style. The Town Hall main hall was packed and he had a standing ovation at the end. I didn't think the applause would ever end! We also listened to 91 year old Alistair Urquhart talk about his memories of being captured by the Japanese and building the Bridge over the River Quai. It was very moving as he was understated but absolutely all there.

The autumn Wigtown Literary Festival was mentioned on the radio today with its claim to be Scotland’s Book Town. It has the innovative idea of allowing people to run a bookshop for a fortnight with the accommodation supplied at a reasonable cost. A team of volunteers and other bookshop sellers provide support and friendship for the stay and people are encouraged to blog about the experience. The Open Book is the name of the book shop with the snappy catch phrase, Shelf Catering. It must be a popular idea as it is fully booked till November 2016.

I was out when that programme was on; my husband suggested I listen to it, but haven't done so yet.  My mother's family came from Wigton and we visited there a few years ago.  There were a lot of bookshops there.  But I appreciated most the fact that newspapers had been indexed in the library and I could look up my family's name easily.
Joe McWilliams

By the way........this thread begins with Ann's mention of the Cheltenham Literary Festival. It reminded me that somewhere in the 830-odd pages of Middlemarch, someone remarks about Cheltenham as being a place one cannot resist visiting, or something along those lines. Really, it's just an impression I retain, of it being a very special place. This would have been to someone in the Midlands of England in about 1830.

Would anyone care to speculate on what would have been the fuss about Cheltenham that would have induced George Eliot to portray it thus? I know nothing of it and refuse to look it up.

One reason could be that Cheltenham was and is a spa town similar to Bath where the natural waters were taken as a tonic for good health. Another spa town in England would be Harrogate plus there are other towns in Europe which reputedly have special waters for consumption.

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