AUTHORS HAD A WILD TIME at the Byron Bay writers’ festival in Australia. No decent literary festival is complete without at least a little bit of authorial naughtiness, but this one managed to set a new standard, with writers and performers engaging in everything from cheerful defamation to perhaps unwise nakedness.
Indeed, the theatre sports event on the Friday evening ended up with a number of the performers naked on stage -- not for any particular reason, but just for the sheer joy of giving the show a sufficiently dramatic ending.
Challenged to instantly create a sex therapist character, literary author Kathryn Heyman spent a significant amount of time discussing her breasts and later leapt on a young man and wrestled him to the ground for a snog (called a “pash” in Australian). “It was just a stage kiss -- no tongues,” she told me afterwards.
Saturday was a day to make lawyers happy with at least 16 energetic items of public slander, mostly against writers, journalists and politicians: we counted them.
Writer and TV comic Charles Firth was in a particularly outrageous mood. When one of his fellow panelists started to speak, he upstaged her by picking up her book and pretending that it put him to sleep. When she complained, he stormed off to sit in the audience.
The picture above shows side-splitting comedienne Mandy Nolan, one of the performers who lost her inhibitions and her clothing.
At a party that night in town, your correspondent could smell something interesting being smoked (no, not salmon), one participant was so drunk she could barely stand, and there was definitely some interesting activity on the relationships front.
By the opening morning of the festival, three of the guests (all of whom had omitted to bring their spouses) had shacked up together.
On the final day of the festival, authors ended up on the balcony of one apartment, singing until late into the night.
There were some 132 authors and more than 9000 attendees. It was probably the most fun literary festival I had ever intended.
But I just hope no one had a video camera.
EDITOR WANTED. There’s a cool job for a full time editor at Thomas Dunne books (part of the St Martin’s/ Pan Macmillan empire) in New York at the moment. Drop me a note and I’ll pass on the application details.
THE END OF “BOOK RETURNS” may be in sight. The book industry is laughed at by other businesses because it accepts unsold products back -- this has been a tradition for decades. No other business allows you to return stuff you fail to sell. Well, this may finally come to an end. A group of powerful British publishers, including Hachette and HarperCollins, are negotiating with retailers to end the system. You buy the books, you keep the books. Waterstones is considering the deal. Their proviso: they’ll take the books and keep them, but only if the unit cost of a book is cut way down so as to minimize their risk.
From an author’s point of view, I’m not sure whether this is good news or not. I think anything that makes the book industry run on a better business model is a plus. But on the other hand, the knowledge that they can return unsold books means that retailers are happy to take experimental titles and try out new authors. This may not be the case in future.
AQUIRED TASTE: The Commercial Press has bought the Chinese rights to Bitter Chocolate by Carol Orff, so that volume will appear on our shelves in English and Chinese. This book is sort of the candy equivalent of Blood Diamonds, the movie that exposed the dark side of the diamond trade. It may be a good and worthy book, but I’m not convinced this is a sales hit. Will the public go for a book which lists the misery involved in producing chocolate?
RETURNING to the subject of bad behaviour, an auction is running at the moment for the memoirs of Keith Richard, the Rolling Stone. The bidding this morning stands at US$7.3 million. Top two bidders are Little Brown and Harper Collins. I guess, that’s where bad behaviour gets you if you take it far enough.