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Flight of fantasy
I'll be taking part in this debate, at 2.00 pm on Saturday 29th March, at the Oxford Literary Festival. This will be part of the St Hilda's College stream of programming, now in its fifth year as a distinctive element of the Literary festival, and one which incidentally markedly raises the female author quotient over the entire programme.

The other authors debating this will be Orange Prize longlisted Gaynor Arnold (The Girl in the Blue Dress, After Such Kindness), Elizabeth Edmondson, who writes historical mysteries and romances under her own name and as Elizabeth Aston (Devil’s Sonata, the Darcy novels) and Booker-shortlisted Anita Mason (The Illusionist, The Right Hand of the Sun), all of us St Hilda's alumnae - merely a few of the great many of us now working in all areas of the media.

We will be considering the value or pointlessness of labelling and compartmentalising fiction, in a debate chaired by Claire Armitstead, literary editor of The Guardian.

If you're within striking distance of Oxford on the 29th, do come along if you can. Tickets are £11, click here to book.

Meantime, what do you think? I've already got my thoughts in order and made my notes but I'm curious to see if someone comes up with something that hasn't occurred to me.

The St Hilda's stream has other fascinating events - at 10 am, I'll be chairing a discussion on literary influences on modern dance, from Isadora Duncan to Fred Astaire and Martha Graham, between Dr Susan Jones, former soloist with the Scottish Ballet, now a fellow of St Hilda’s and author of Literature, Modernism and Dance, and classicist Dr Fiona Macintosh, fellow of St Hilda’s, director of the University of Oxford’s Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, and editor of The Ancient Dancer in the Modern World.

Another of St Hilda's annual literary events is the Crime & Mystery Conference held each August since 1994. At 12.00 noon this year Nicolette Jones, critic and chair of the St Hilda’s College Media Network, will be interviewing one of the event's most long-standing speakers and attendees, Andrew Taylor, acclaimed crime writer and historical novelist, winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger and of the 2013 CWA Historical Dagger Award. They'll discuss his latest crime thriller, The Scent of Death, and much more besides, I'm sure of that.

We're rounding off the day with opera! Specifically, Glamour and Grubbiness, the Inside Story, as revealed by Wasfi Kani telling the story of the Grange Park Opera, in Hampshire. There will be singing and afterwards, a glass of sparkling wine. How can you resist?


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 14th, 2014 10:57 am (UTC)
"Genre fiction" is a tautology, like "sound music" or "colour and form painting". As long as readers pick up a text with some expectations of what they will find inside in terms of style, plot, etc., and as long as they read using those expectations as a template (whether or not they are frustrated or confirmed), then genre is at work. I haven't the faintest idea why anyone would think of genre as somehow infra dig, any more than they would think of their use of the alphabet in that way. It's more than snobbery - it's pathology.
Mar. 14th, 2014 11:11 am (UTC)
Possibly - and only possibly, mind - genre fiction is subject to slightly less stringent editing. I am prepared to be shouted down on this.
Mar. 14th, 2014 01:29 pm (UTC)
I'd say that 'literary fiction' *is* a genre - with reader expectations and conventions of its own. And that there's a certain amount of crossover - Among Others, for instance, struck me as very literary in its themes, pacing, and focus. (Mere space ships or time travel do not a genre novel make - see Outlander, which came up in discussion elsewhere this morning.)

And, oh, this is tempting, but I have a long-standing dislike of literary festivals for this habit of making you pay for every event, and now that I'm living in London the barrier is even higher than before...
Mar. 14th, 2014 01:38 pm (UTC)
I also like to put forward the view that lit fic is a genre with its own conventions and reader expectations. I admit that this is a slightly mischievous opinion and usually gets the lit fic teachers and critics suitably riled, but there is a lot of truth in it.

This is why works that also fit other genre conventions, eg romance or SF, can sometimes be accepted as literary because it fits the necessary genre criteria. It also explains why SF written by literary writers often fails to work for SF fans and always seems a bit ponderous.
Mar. 14th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
That sounds fabulous.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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