My final trip over to Ways With Words yesterday and this time I took the bookhound as my personal chauffeur and butler. Parked him under the trees with newspapers and each time I emerged from an event he was waiting with reserved Penguin bookcover deckchairs, food and drink.For the record he sat in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, I placed my derriere delicately in Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party. I never quite trust a deckchair somehow, it's a might ungainly way to go if you haven't got the bar in the notch no matter how auspicious the author.You can trust a good butler though, I was perfectly aligned.
Star of the day for me, apart from the butler, was Penelope Lively,surely now attaining the ranks of at least senior prefect in the world of British writing and must be up for the head girlship soon.She spoke on the use and purpose of gardens in fiction and then, later in the day, took part in a three way discussion on "what do reader's want from fiction" alongside Salley "Miss Garnet's Angel" Vickers and Nicholas "The Horse Whisperer" Evans.
The relevance and purpose of gardens in fiction was fascinating, for starters two key plants, if there's ivy expect sinister goings on, if roses expect atmospherics.Plenty of writers were advanced as garden examples and quoted beautifully, amongst them Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Daphne Du Maurier, Angus Wilson, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Lewis Carroll and thankfully my very own love, Elizabeth von Arnim and her German Garden.Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson got a look in as did Philip Larkin's lawn mower.Crime novels weren't included but it was agreed could be a fruitful source as the location for buried bodies.
Penelope Lively speaks gently but with great depth and humour and never disappoints.
I have less to report on the three way discussion "what do reader's want from fiction" as I'm not sure the service providers, even though these three declare they are avid consumers,are necessarily the best people to talk about the needs of the purchaser .They also felt the same it would seem, and the debate became more an analysis of what they offer and how they do it.
But this was, in a way, an example of some misleading event titling at Ways With Words this year, speakers standing up and starting their session with "I see it says I'm talking about x, in fact I'll be talking about y".
Perfect Remains of the Day style journey home, and I suspect this is almost the route followed in Kazuo Ishiguro's book.Check out the "Moscombe, near Tavistock, Devon" chapter.
Here's Vixen Tor, source of much dispute over access at the moment.We then amazed ourselves by breaking our cardinal rule and joining the throngs of tourists (we love you really) who screech to a halt and almost cause a pile up, all to take pictures of Dartmoor ponies and foals especially for you.
This is a real first and we hope no one we know spotted us or we'll never live it down.