Events kick off today at Dartington Ways With Words, Salley Vickers this afternoon, so fasten your seat belts and we'll be off across Dartmoor any minute and I'm meant to be reading all those books ahead of myself, so that I can nod knowingly as the authors explain the nuances of their narrative voice and their plot devices.
So on my way to the armchair for another session with Henry VIII and our 'ilary I was waylaid by the Women's Lives stack.
I'm doing a bit of gentle categorising of books-to-be-read these days, so I've got a great Crime Corner ready for when I fancy a bit of murder and a Women's Lives pile over on the edge of the Virginia Woolf shelf.
That's where I'd put An Education by Lynn Barber.
On top of Eleanor of Aquitaine, right next to The Marvelous Hairy Girls and Hot Flushes, Cold Science A History of the Modern Menopause and meaning to get to it all one day.
But as I walked past it has to be said the young Lynn on the cover has a very endearing smile, so having opened the first page and read,
'I know memoirs are supposed to begin with ancestors but alas, I don't have any, because I come from the lower, unremembered, orders on both sides, There is no Barber ancestral seat, nor even, so far as I know, any Barber ancestral village.'
I then barely glanced at the Tudors until I'd reached the end and now I discover that Lynn will be at Dartington on the final day too.
Lynn Barber (not quite a kindred spirit with Anne with an 'e' and this Lynne with an 'e') born in 1944 studied English at Oxford in the 1960s forging a career in journalism at Penthouse, then moving onto the Sunday Express, the Sunday Independent and Vanity Fair and now writes for the Observer and the Daily Telegraph.
An Education was certainly an education for me.
I think Lynn might have been the equivalent of someone we all knew in school, though I would only presume to speak for myself here; someone I could only emulate from afar and aspire to, but I was unlikely ever to come close.
You know, the one who makes the rest of you feel spotty, geeky and stupid.
Lynn was the bright, attractive, stylish one, exempt from the exigencies of the lacrosse pitch thanks to her 'weak ankles'. The one with the older, suave and sophisticated boyfriend of whom she asked no questions and, but for a last minute discovery of a roguish nature, may have married and thus given up any thoughts of Oxford.
I very briefly had one of those, not too roguish and thankfully marriage was never an option, but I did read Catch 22 to impress him and I'm always glad to have tucked that book under my belt at nineteen.
Quite astonishing too, and testament to Simon's con-man skills, is the fact that Lynn's parents, having encouraged her to aim high, were also completely duped by his charms and pressing her into the marriage.
For Lynn Barber, the lifelong effect feels profound. How can you truly know and trust anyone, including in this case her parents, and perhaps this was the unwitting catalyst for an award-winning career spent interviewing the rich and famous in an effort to know and understand .
Given that Lynn Barber has a few years on this Coronation Year baby and lived a far more exciting life than I did during the 60s and 70s, I had a great deal to learn, and having read Katherine Whitehorn's Selected Memory last year I'm thinking what a trove of fascinating and important insights these books are.
Women journalists staking their claim, adding a new and different dimension to a changing world.
Even writing the words 'I'm thinking' would have been off-limits to any journalist worth their expenses (eye-watering, forget MPs, the journos knew how to rack up the bills) back in those third-person days, but Lynn Barber successful challenged that 'great god objectivity' . First person writing was 'unprofessional' and 'girlie' in the eyes of the old school (male) editors but Lynn blazed a trail and set the bench mark.
I'm nerve-wracked lest Lynn Barber read this because she has an eagle-eye for the extraneous word and absent punctuation, as well as being the doyenne of the well-conducted interview, and there's me wanting to know about people's writing socks and asking A.S.Byatt whether she threw a pot in her research for The Children's Book, (I did honestly, just wait until Monday for the answer) but I've got an excuse, I'm a nurse not a journalist.
The nurse bit came in very useful towards the final pages of the book and in true litfest fashion I won't reveal exactly how because, apart from the use of past-tense with reference to 'someone' throughout the book, I still had no idea quite what was coming. When it came I understood it all only too well and though this episode constitutes a very small proportion of the book, almost too painful to examine too closely, I can only begin to imagine what a devastating event this has been in Lynn Barber's life.
The first chapters of An Education have been adapted for the big screen by Nick Hornby, with some journalistic licence employed in finding more filmic outcomes for this period of Lynn's life, the film due for release here in the UK in October, but I'd say read the book first, it's a cracker...should I have put that comma before that 'but'?