Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love writers' festivals

I've just spent a long and fabulous weekend at the Sydney Writers' Festival. Sure there were hoards of those snobby rich-type people from the Eastern suburbs who only recognise books as those nice flattish statues they have on the glass-topped mahogany coffee tables in their north wing sitting rooms, but the Festival had more delights than even the high concentration of cats'-bum-faced women could diminish (apologies to cats and their arses everywhere).

So what were these festival delights? Let me share some with you.

Festival Delight Number 1
Bob Ellis was there talking about his new book And So It Went. He sat behind us at the restaurant on Saturday night. This is possibly my favourite festival photo of all time:

Festival Delight Number 2
There was a panel on erotic fan fiction. Marieke Hardy was on the panel and she read a piece on her lust for Brian, the dog from Family Guy. It ended, wink wink nudge nudge, with how she knew how to "throw a dog a bone".

One panellist read a piece on Inspector Gadget, describing, in detail, the Inspector's colouful feelings for Penny; another panellist described how Jennifer Aniston might be filling those lonely hours post-Brad by imagining what Brad does to Angelina under the table at all those gala dinners they go to. But the best piece of the night was based on the characters from Cluedo, which from the very innocent "'Lick my beard!' yelled Mustard to Green" descended into all sorts of delightful filth.

Festival Delight Number 3
My friends, undoubtedly against their better individual and collective judgements, let me do a festival quiz over dinner. Weren't they pleased with the quality of my questions:

The weather forecast for the festival was rain all weekend. Has it rained today?

The man who attempted to heckle George Friedman on Friday night was wearing what coloured scarf?

The Sydney Writers' Festival is held in which city?

Festival Delight Number 4
There was a session on the Booker Prize and the panel included a writer who had been short-listed and another who had been long-listed for the award, neither of whom had 'progressed' further in the competition. I enjoyed watching the facilitator rush headlong into a sentence that, as it started to unwind, could go nowhere but to the rather damning end of describing the two writers (of excellent, engaging novels) as 'Booker Prize losers'. It was an awkward moment. I'm pretty sure I saw one of the writers look at his/her watch.

Festival Delight Number 5
My final festival delight was the discovery of just how nimble old people are. There's no need to worry about old people getting worn out and feeble; the writers' festival has shown me that physical deterioration in your advanced years is a myth!

This weekend I saw more old ladies duck, weave, shoulder and side-step their way up queues than I could count on an abacus. One moment I was sure I was at the front of a queue then I'd blink and there would be fifteen thousand wrinkled faces with 1950s lipstick in front of me. What ho, I would think to myself, where did these fifteen thousand people come from? Then I would marvel anew at the speed with which fifteen thousand old ladies can duck, weave, shoulder and side-step, as they did within the blink of my eye (300 to 400 milliseconds), to get themselves to the front of the queue. I no longer fear getting old.

How much are tickets to the Byron Bay festival? I can't wait to see what the old hippies are up to.


the projectivist said...

so you had a girls weekend away?
carousing, fighting old ladies for plum seats, stalking and lurid sex-talk.

Kettle said...

It was a flippin' good weekend. I like to refer to fighting old ladies, stalking and lurid sex-talk as a triangle of happiness!

Samantha said...

when i was looking at the cartoon alien porn there were other pictures of well known cartoon characters doing things they shouldn't AND THERE WAS ONE OF INSPECTOR GADGET OGGLING PENNY'S CAMEL TOE WITH HIS GO-GO-GADGET EXTENDABLE NECK. She was wearing a pink bikini at the time. It was shocking.

Kettle said...

Ha ha ha Sam! Chroist, I think I need a whiskey after that image, not a coffee!

Anonymous said...

Oh, the more I hear about writer's festivals the more I know I HAVE to go to one... they sound fabulous and I think I'd soak up and love every second. Good post!!

Kettle said...

Hey SP! Writers' festivals rock provided you take a large pinch of salt with you. They're great opportunities to hear some awesome new ideas, but they can also be very heavily populated with total arty farty wankers. Honestly, it cracks me up that people line up for hours to see authors whose books they've never read (I always want to yell at them "we're freakin' readers first, right? Right?"). On the other hand, I should get over myself and face the fact that people go to festivals for all sorts of reasons ;)

Anyhoo, rant aside, there's usually a 'I'd Rather Be Reading' festival on in Canberra each year (maybe August?) if you're keen to check it out, or else there's the Sydney fest next year. Let me know what you think post-festival!