Kathryn Hughes

Festival Frolics

Time was when writers were expected to write, and not much else. The particularly confident or clubbable might appear on the occasional BBC radio show, but mostly it was considered infra dig to tart yourself around like a travelling salesman offering a nice line in printer cartridges or ladies’ underwear.

How different it is now. Over the next four months any market town which can run to a marquee and a patch of off-street parking will be mounting a ‘literary festival’ at which you, as a writer with a book just out, will be expected to do a turn. Your publicist expects it, your agent says it will do your ‘brand’ the world of good. You tell anyone who will listen that you happen to know that Alan Bennett confines himself only to the major gigs – Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Hay. The looks you get back tell you that, frankly, Alan Bennett’s options and yours have little in common.

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