I'm not sure why I think a picture of the medieval jousting yard should be appropriate but if it's Friday it's Virago at Ways With Words.
This is the second Virago 30th anniversary event for me this year, same chair, current commisioning editor Donna Coonan, different guests, this time founding editor Carmen Callil and author Michele Roberts.
Good crowd in the Great Hall and Carmen Callil apologised for having 'bored for England' on the subject of the Virago anniversary already this year but we were very happy for her to carry on and 'bore' us some more.
The first Virago writers, Antonia White, Rosamund Lehman,Margaret Atwood, Stevie Smith, Henry Handel Richardson, Christina Stead and many more were the subject of discussion between the members of the panel as we learnt about the early days of Virago and the delight all round at bringing these books back into print. This was an era fed by feminism but as Carmen elaborated, also driven mad by it and Michelle gave a good account of the provocative time that was the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was about not about nostalgia it was about changing the face of literary history.
Talk turned to favourite Virago books and authors so imagine my delight when Carmen Callil then lauded Enid Bagnold's The Squire as one of the best books written on the early days of motherhood.
Michelle Roberts cited her love of the good convent read, and went on to mention the wonderful Sylvia Townsend Warner's The Corner That Held Them, and The Land of Spices by Kate O'Brien as perfect books for accessing her 'inner nun'.
Virago author Elizabeth Taylor gained magnificent plaudits from all three panellists described by Michelle Roberts as the spy in the home where the most dangerous things happen.'The thinking woman's dangerous housewife' in the words of Valerie Martin apparently and I was sitting pondering those chintz-bedecked battlefields so perfectly defined by Paul Bailey in his introductions to some of Elizabeth Taylor's novels.
Yes indeed you could feel the lurve for Elizabeth.
There were good questions, one about chicklit, and Michelle Roberts gave an excellent defence of a genre that enables young women to ask and answer the questions about life and love, the answers are there beneath the froth and then suggested we look at the difference between chicklit and Jane Austen, in fact ask was there a difference?
Why not share your apoplexy or agreement in comments where smelling salts and lavender compresses await those overcome and feeling discomposed with a fit of the vapours, but I'm of the mind that there's a good debate to be had there.
The Orange Prize came up in discussion and Carmen Callil reiterated her refusal to attend the ceremony because of the Taittinger champagne connection and you'll have to read her book Bad Faith to discover exactly why. Michelle Roberts now wants to see men and women competing on the same level literary playing field whilst Carmen would like to see a return of the French Revolutionary spirit, she'd liked writers to object far more, to tackle injustices near to home.
It was all good stirring Virago stuff, vive la Virago.