Daunt Books Festival 2015

Daunt Book Festival: Day 2 [part 1]

According to the scribbles in my notepad, half the fun of attending events like these is the interaction with other bookie people. I stand by this statement. I met some lovely ladies over the two days, and not always who I expected to.

Emily’s Walking Book Club

Alongside organising the Daunt Books Festival, Emily runs the walking book club regularly from the Hampstead Daunt branch and blogs at, Emily Books.

I can’t remember the name of the first lady I got chatting to, but she was very nice to solo me and is a veteran of Emily’s Walking Book Club. By chance, she was one of the two ladies I had been sitting next to at the Emil and the Detective’s talk – I was right thinking I would see them again.

My fellow walkers and I met at Daunt, then as our numbers grew Emily led us to Regents Park to begin the walk. The cold held no sway as we proceeded to amble and discuss Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, a novel I read due to last year’s festival (and re-read between talks the day before). Emily structured the walk so we had points of discussion to mull over every fifteen minutes or so. Considering my ability to go off on a tangent, it was helpful to have her guidance.

Near the end of the walk, I began chatting to Judith, and as the walk concluded she and her friend Laura invited me to come for a cup of tea with them. They were marvelous company and should they happen to come across this post: thank you very much for the tea, pastries and saying I must be a perfect daughter. My mum did indeed laugh!


In Praise of Short Stories

Tessa Hadley, Colin Barrett & Julianne Pachico talk to Laura Macaulay

  • Tessa Hadley has written four novels and two collections of short stories
  • Colin Barrett collection of stories is titled, Young Skins
  • Julianne Pachico’s collection of stories, The Tourists, is published by Daunt
  • Laura Macaulay works at Daunt as both a publisher and a bookseller

Last year this was the event that took me by surprise. I hadn’t read short stories (I don’t read them often enough now) and it opened my mind to another area of fiction. While this event had been brought back from the year before it had a very different feel to it, it was a different take on the same topic.

Each of the panel begin by reading from their collections. Before Barrett begins to read he jokes that his is written in a rich Irish dialect and may be difficult to understand. Unlike Pachio or Hadley, he isn’t a natural reader, however, his was the most powerful story of the three.

Macaulay then spoke about the sense of location that runs through each of their collections, and asks why they are set where they are. She felt that the connection of place is what threads their stories together.

Barrett explains that he wrote a lot of stories, but the ones that worked best were set in his town. More material came from this location than it did elsewhere. Pachico felt comfort in knowing Barratt felt this way, as she too found that writing something similar to what she knew is what worked for her.

Although, while each writer is comfortable setting their stories in a familiar place and time, they do not make their stories biographical. Hadley quotes (or perhaps paraphrases) Alice Monroe, who said that you don’t write about your children, you need them to look after you.

Barrett stated he had no interest in writing about the actual and liked to take what he knew and fictionalise it. It “has to be done with fiction.” Hadley agrees and feels it is, “hugely exposing to write.” Pachico’s mother once read one of her stories and asked her if that was how she saw her family. She explains that she gets anxious that people may think stories are about them when they’re not.

From what they were discussing, it gave a general feeling that all three writers take life experience and feelings, such as anxiety, and put these into characters unlike themselves. This is how they melded the fictional with the actual.

On the difference between writing a novel and short stories, Barrett enjoyed the ability to be suggestive with short stories. He explains that “you embody a character”, you don’t need to flesh a character out or wrap up a plot. Short stories are a glimpse or a moment. Pachico agreed and felt you can go against the rules or do something fun with a short stories. Utilise what doesn’t work in a novel setting. “You can throw those little grenades in there.”


Russians in Paris: Gazdanov, Teffi and other Émigré Writers of the 1920s

Bryan Karetnyk & Peter Pomerantsev talk to Nicholas Lezard

  • Bryan Karetnyk is a translator of Russian literature, including Gazdanov
  • Peter Pomerantsev is author of, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, an account of Putin’s Russia
  • Nicholas Lezard is a writer and literary critic for The Guardian

Much like the Emil and the Detectives event the day before, I did not take lengthy notes during this talk. Mainly because the subject matter was too far outside of my interests. However, it was informative and did make me want to look into authors such as Teffi or Gazdanov.

[The ladies who bought me tea were sitting next to me, which was a lovely happenstance]

Lezard began by asking what brought Russian émigré writers to Paris. Pomerantsev explained it was due to the revolution, and that French was the natural location for these writers (say over London, which is the location for Russian Oligarchs now). Karetnyk stated that these writers were very European, that while they had an innate Russian-ness their writing was European-esc.

Teffi was very popular with the Tzar and Lenin, when the revolution began it was not a Russia she wanted to be in (or write for). Both Teffi and Gazdanov ran to France in 1917. Here they had the ability to write freely, and somewhat recreate themselves. Pomerantsev felt this was natural when you flee one place for another, you can become what you were not.

Lezard asked what the émigré writers thought of those who stayed in Russia. Karetnyk explained there was a good relationship between soviet journals and those in émigré Berlin and Paris. This surprised me, I expected a brittle relationship between the two. Or even a lack of respect for one another.

While I wasn’t sure if I had completely understood the history of Russian émigré writers as the event concluded. I had enjoyed the glimpse into an area of both history and literature I had never encountered before.



Part 2 of the days events will be posted shortly (Saturday).

Are you part of a book club? What short stories are you reading at the moment?

3 thoughts on “Daunt Book Festival: Day 2 [part 1]

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