Cheltenham Literature Festival Preview

Don’t worry if you’ve missed the ticket rush for J.K. Rowling (the well-known state-of-the-nation author, who has also written children’s books about a wizard), there’s loads more to see at this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. We reckon this year’s highlight is an appearance by Richard Ford – one of the most important writers currently working in the English Language. Students will be familiar with Ford’s Frank Bascombe trilogy, and his edited volumes of American short stories are set texts on WT202. Ford will be discussing his latest novel, Canada, and his talk (2pm on Sunday October 14th) is definitely not to be missed.

Besides Ford, many of the big name writers are scheduled for the festival’s opening day. Here are some literary highlights from the opening day and the rest of the week.

Friday 5th October

2pm: Acclaimed American author Paul Auster will talk about his postmodernist masterpiece The New York Trilogy (if indeed that’s what he does talk about. There is, after all, the event and the telling of the event, and how the one relates to the other is perhaps the story itself.)

Also at 2pm: A discussion with the popular novelist Sebastian Faulks (who will talk in a sturdy white tent, across the damp grass, on a leafy boulevard, whose ample chestnut trees will provide bountiful shade from the spattering Cheltenham rain.)

6:30pm: The celebrated novelist Salman Rushdie, upon whom a fatwa was imposed in 1989, will be discussing liberty and freedom of speech. (The talk will start in the early evening; no, that’s not enough: the time matters. Well, let us say – oh, come on, come on – the talk shall cling to the coat-tails of tea time; the talk shall ride on the hump of dinner. Yes, no sooner shall cutlery be aligned like reverential hands in solemn prayer than we, the audience, shall sit in expectant silence, awaiting the wisdom of words.)

4pm: A discussion with Pat Barker, who wrote novels about working class women (in the days before she was a Commander of the British Empire), but is best known for her WW1 epic, the Regeneration Trilogy.

Saturday 6th October

11:30 am: The novelist and dramatist Michael Frayn in conversation with John Carey
8:45pm: The prolific Ian (M) Banks, who writes interesting sci-fi and mainstream fiction

Sunday 7th October

8pm: A discussion with, and readings from, those involved with judging and winning the BBC International Short Story Award.
8:30pm American novelist TC Boyle will be discussing his latest novel, San Miguel

Monday 8th October

2pm (FREE): An audience with two Nigerian-born writers, Noo Saro-Wiwa and Chibundu Onuzu.
5:30pm (FREE): The poetry cafe with Ruth Padel and Anna Saunders
8:30pm: The Gloucestershire Writers Network

Tuesday 9th October

5:30pm (FREE): The poetry cafe with Yu Jian and Pascale Petit
8:45pm: A conversation with the award-winning dramatist, Jez Butterworth

Wednesday 10th

 2pm: A potentially interesting ‘literary tour of Cheltenham’5:30pm (FREE): Poetry Cafe with Jackie Kay and Allison Brackenbury8:45pm: A one-man show by novelist and dramatist Mark Haddon (best known for writing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time)

Thursday 11th October

11:45am: Poetry readings by John Burnside and others who’ve won or been shortlisted for the Forward Prize.

Friday 12th October

12:30pm: The Cheltenham Literature Festival open mic session, at which members of the public can present a five-minute reading of their work.
4pm: Orange-Prize winning novelist Rose Tremain in conversation with Erica Wagner

Saturday 13th October

12pm: The 2012 Man Booker Prize Shortlist Event

Sunday 14th October

12pm: A discussion with the celebrated novelist Ian McEwan – one of the foremost pillars of the British literary establishment.

There are also loads of writing workshops, dry debates with morally-questionable public figures, and fun-sounding non-literary events with people off the telly. In other words, there’s something for everyone, so please check out the full programme here. Best of all, the university has some free tickets, which are currently available to first years only but will, we hope, be available to more students soon. First years who would like free tickets can collect them from the administration office (QU181, Quad East) on Tuesday 2nd October between 12.15pm and 2.15pm, or on Wednesday 3rd October between 10am and 12noon (maximum 2 tickets per student, per event).

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