What We’re Really Talking About…2017


The summer is officially over tomorrow, which means Book Festival Season is sort of over, (or rather taking a very short nap before gearing up for winter Book Festival Season). It’s been a wonderful summer of festivaling all over the UK and Ireland, catching up with old friends, meeting new people, spending almost my entire fee at the book store and then trying to haul enormous amounts of recently purchased books, stuffed into a pull-on suitcase, up the steps of an Easyjet plane and into the overhead luggage locker. (Nb The handle of my pull-on suitcase has fallen victim to a particularly hardcore Book Festival Season: one trundle down a cobbled alleyway too many; one last minute, desperation yank through the closing doors of a London tube train; one hardback beast of a novel more than any somewhat elderly piece of oft-used hand luggage should be expected to bear. It will no longer retract. I think it is broken somewhere inside. I can empathise).

Back by popular demand, in honour of the end of one season and the imminent approach of the next I give you, “What we are really talking about at Book Festivals,” a one step guide to the things writers are really chatting about in the author’s tent when you assume they’re in there downing glass after glass of complimentary Prosecco whilst unpicking Chekhov or offering each other advice on how to subjugate the trickier verbs. It is more like this. Believe me. It really is.

  1. Does anyone know how to get wine/chocolate/spaghetti sauce out of a top if it is the only top I have packed for my reading and I am reading in a tent, in a field with nothing but a Portaloo and a bottle of Ballygowan in lieu of laundering facilities? Would anyone notice if I turned said top inside out/back to front/tied it round your chest in a kind of bandeau style?
  2. Have I read the Sally Rooney yet? I probably shouldn’t. After I’ve read it I will think to myself, “I am so old and not yet anywhere close to the point of writing something this genius. I should probably just stop writing now and be a children’s entertainer instead.”
  3. (Back by popular demand). Is there Prosecco? I heard there was Prosecco somewhere in this Green Room. Oh, there’s no Prosecco, only boxed wine. Ah well, I’ll have some boxed wine then.
  4. Does anyone know where the tent/hall/strange alternative use of space in which I am reading is actually situated. Why has it been renamed the Little Listening Nook or something equally ridiculous for the duration of the Book Festival so I can’t even stop a local and ask for directions to the Public Library, or community centre or whatever it usually functions as?
  5. Cheese in the Green Room. Yes or No? In favour of cheese, it is delicious? Against cheese, it gets really smelly, really quickly in any sort of heat.
  6. Brexit. Borders. The DUP Agenda. Brexit. Borders. The DUP Agenda. If one more person, upon hearing a distinctly Northern Irish accent emanating from behind a microphone, decides it would be a good idea to raise their hand and ask a question about Brexit, Borders or the bloody DUP Agenda, one of us is going to explode. I feel for the American writers. I honestly do.
  7. Still getting mileage in 2017, what makes a good Book Festival tote bag? Is it a nice, well-designed print or, is it instead, a double gusset for strength and durability? I think we all know the answer to this one.
  8. Is Peggy Hughes here? If the answer to this question is no, it is likely that you are not actually at a book festival, but have instead stumbled into a gathering of reasonably elderly people wearing adventure sandals -a University of the Third Age for example or filming for The Antiques Road Show- and have mistaken this for a book festival.
  9. Is it too early to have an ice cream? It is never too early to have an ice cream when attending a book festival. In this sense, ice cream is the new gin.
  10. Anecdotes concerning or related to Colm Toibin, (“I just saw Colm Toibin with a shoe on his head.” “I met two lovely nuns at a Colm Toibin reading last night.” etc).

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