"I like Writers Festivals for the hilarity of watching the middle-aged book-reading crazies, even after being told to keep questions brief, frame their own questions with a personal history that inevitably begins with:
- a childhood somewhere regional, usually with a dirt thoroughfare somewhere in the background (a road, a hallway, even a bedroom) and an encouraging parent stalwartly raising many children single-handedly,
- their own discovery of reading (sprinkled with author names so obscure and brilliant they never even wrote anything),
- an education-based upheaval (encouraging teacher, lecturer, tutor, uni book-group/slash key party)
- a personal upheaval (divorce, rat-bag kids, dissatisfying workplace, terminal illness),
- a thinly-veiled hint at their own bottom-desk-drawer-based novel (this hint is poetry itself: nowhere can you condense all of the above history along with a rigid self-belief in its importance, a rigid refusal to let anyone but the author read it and rigid, poisonous ire at the entire publishing industry, from paper-mill down to Borders delivery driver, for its stupidity in rejecting said desk-drawer manuscript in one throw-away line: "I've even dabbled with the word processor myself ..."), and
- the mandatory nudge-wink about some shared aspect of their own lives with the author's before finally, just as the chair is giving the secret signal to the sound techo to cut the mic and pretend it was a mysterious power-outage, the question itself tumbles out, all squished and over-baked and sounding like "So, where do you get your ideas?", but in the context of the previous 14 minute, inhalation-free monologue, actually meaning "You understand me. We are going to be great friends. Let's start now. NOW!"
"I'm not finished!" he yelled into the microphone as he and the next senior-citizen bodily wrestled each other for the final three-and-a-half minutes of question time. This isn't an exaggeration - take about five years off those two fellows and they would have been throwing punches among the sunhats and signed copies. And this was after an hour-long, extremely fascinating and convincing talk by Robert Fisk, world-famous war correspondent, about the pointlessness and futility of violent conflict.
I love Writer's Weeks.