PEN was founded in 1921 (by John Galsworthy) to support persecuted and imprisoned writers across the world, and still vigorously does so, now in more than a hundred countries worldwide. On Friday night, choreographed by Victoria Glendinning, a group of ten more fortunate authors and poets gathered at Bruton's Hobhouse Theatre to read some of the words of these writers, several now assassinated or suicides in exile. They write, among other things, of a swallow's twittering, a spider spinning its web in the door of the cell, and it is in these luminous glimpses we see most clearly the indomitable spirit of human soul... the generous hospitality of our organiser afterwards was so overwhelming in contrast to the starkness of these experiences I hurried home to join PEN forthwith. Voices of Conscience indeed.
"It's a great pleasure to launch the Bath Literature Festival" says BBC Producer Sara Davies to a packed Guildhall audience as the radio4 afternoon stories for next week are recorded before our eyes. Certainly a great pleasure for me, as Alison Reid reads my story 'Mrs Somerville's Garden'. I'm there with Alison Clink - we've both had stories in the festival before, and take it turns to act as each other's groupie. Gill Edwards, another Frome writer, is in the line-up too, with a quirky list of tips on how to survive that dreaded School Reunion (top tip: don't steal more glam car to impress old boyfriend...) Stories will be broadcast next week at 3.30, Gill's on Monday 25th, mine on Friday 29th - come on, you know how to listen on line later if you miss out!
"The Romantics: James Fenton on Samuel Taylor Coleridge" next day was a quintessential Bath event, and slightly sombre despite the glittering lights of 6-tier crystal chandeliers. The gist of the talk appeared to be that Coleridge could be a rather difficult character, what with the opium addiction and the clinical depression and those suicide threats hidden in the rich loam of his landscape poems. James Fenton picks his words slowly, like plum tomatoes fingered from a trailing vine. Sometimes he finds one that's a bit squidgy. "Did I say Dorothy was the inspiration for Wordsworth's writing? I meant his wife Mary, of course." Cue muted chuckles.
And now for something completely different. "Probably the most charming film you'll see all year" says some website I found while googling Juno. There isn't a duff review anywhere, and nor should there be. Cracking script, brilliant cast, who to pick out? Well Juno, definitely, and her dad too, maybe because these two shared such brilliant dialogue:
“Hey there big puffy version of June-bug, what you been up to?”
“Just out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.”
I was empathising with her way before that though, from “I don’t really know what kind of girl I am” to “I guess normalcy isn’t our style”. But she does find out how to love 'a part-time lover and a full-time friend'.
"A surprise hit and simply one of the most delightful films of recent times" enthuses the reviewer. If you want convincing, try the trailer.