Oxford Literary Festival. This year only got to three events, but they were all fascinating and very different and – especially today with the sun shining on all the golden stone and lots of happy people sitting in the quads – I was reminded how lucky I am to live in Oxford. Simon Jenkins on his new book England’s 100 Best Views: not unexpectedly there were many exquisite photographs, but I also learned a lot about the history of the view and the difference between the ‘picturesque’ and the ‘romantic’. Did you know people used to sit in boats on the Wye holding up empty picture frames and paint what they saw through them?
I’m sorry Simon Jenkins hates wind turbines so much. I’m fond of them and toy with the idea of having one as the hero of a children’s story.
Then there was AC Grayling on the subject of friendship. He’s one of my favourite lecturers and I was fascinated and moved.
And finally a group of novelists all from St Hilda’s College debating the proposition that genre fiction is no different from literary fiction. In the course of the debate we heard some excellent definitions of what makes a good novel whatever label it is given. No one really succeeded in winning the argument and the problem (close to my own heart) of what bookshelf to put a ‘transgenre’ novel on doesn’t seem to be solvable.
I’m just back from Cornwall – fields of daffodils, and delicious cream teas (note judicious use of the Oxford comma). And before that I was at an awards ceremony – I was and remained on the short list for the Exeter Novel Prize. (The winner was Su Bristow with a novel called Sealskin about a mermaid.) When I got home I found I’d got on to another short list with a ghost story I’d forgotten about.
So I’m feeling quite cheerful and intellectually nourished and fatter than I was when I wrote my last blog.