HAY FESTIVAL: Trying to Get on Florence's Magic Roundabout

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

HAY FESTIVAL: Trying to Get on Florence's Magic Roundabout


Byline: Hannah Jones

AT the Hay Festival of Literature, some people wander about wearing a kind of pseudointellectualism that only comes from those who are attracted to being labelled cultured.

The rest of us are trying to look for a bargain in the myriad of bookshops that line the streets of Hay with dusty allure.

It's quite a daunting prospect, being faced with thousands of people who seem to know more than you on any literary subjects this side of the Black Moun-tains. People get outwardly emotive about the snobbish theatrics of Evelyn Waugh, and go gooey around festival director Peter Florence because they are under the mistaken belief that he must have read every book in Hay to have put on such a show.

You can see them almost want to get down on their knees and worship at the kitten-heeled feet of the horsy haughtiness of Jilly Cooper. And, curiously enough, everyone seems to wear linen.

So the majority of folk walk around in a state of perpetual crumpledness, which seems to say, ``Sorry, didn't have enough time to iron - too busy finishing my book you know.''

And you know what they say about people who claim to be writing their first book - it's the literary equivalent of a bent accountant telling you your cheque's in the post.

Hay can be a lonely place for the majority of mild-mannered individuals, who simply want to go along and sit in on some events, and maybe find out a little bit more about their favourite authors.

It's a formidable scene, one where the more fragile participant may go away feeling utterly dismissed and insignificant in a world which seems to welcome people who seem to know everything there is to know about the colours of poetry, prose, fiction and fancy diction.

Not that I am suggesting that you should grab your dictionary and try to work out the meaning of what they're saying, of course.

But a quick trawl of the web might be worth considering if you're thinking about discussing the essential contribution of psychoanalysis to contemporary literature over a glass of coffee in a cafe. …

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