Monday, 6 September 2010

Small Wonder

Ordinarily I’m not a great fan of literary festivals, mainly because I tend to be put off by the increasingly high proportion of ‘celebrity authors’ taking part, rather than plain old fashioned writers. But Small Wonder is different. I imagine that’s simply because its focus is entirely on the short story, and there aren’t many celebrities writing short stories at the moment. Or perhaps it’s just because I’m a big fan of the shorter form.
I first attended the Small Wonder festival in 2005. That year I was fortunate to meet, among others, the self-effacing John McGahern and the perfectly charming Rose Tremain. Zadie Smith was there too. The legendary Grace Paley was due to take part but unfortunately she was too ill to travel from the States and instead sent a video. I attended every session over three days and loved every moment of it. William Trevor described Small Wonder as ‘The best literary festival I have ever attended’, and I fully agree.

Unfortunately, I can’t get there before the Saturday this year so I’ll miss the double-hander with Tania Hershman and Vanessa Gebbie, which sounds like it’ll be a cracking session. But the highlight, for me, will be the debate between Kate Clanchy, Michèle Roberts and Di Speirs on contemporary fiction and whether it is in thrall to ‘reality’ (especially in the light of David Shields recent book announcing the impending death of the novel (again)). Kate Clanchy wrote my favourite short story of last year, ‘The Not-Dead and the Saved’, which deservedly won the BBC National Short Story Award for 2009, so I’m particularly looking forward to hearing her speak.

If you can make it I might see you there. If you can’t, check this space after the event – I’ll try to bring you (what I consider to be) the highlights.

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