Sunday, February 12, 2006

Oxford Literary Festival

Each year, the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival gives readers the chance to enjoy a cultural spring break in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Britain, but this year, they're going 2up market": the festival will take place at Christ Church College, a spectacular college in the heart of Oxford which was founded by Henry VIII back in 1525, and made famous by Alice in Wonderland, and (to a lesser extent) by the Harry Potter films. This will be the first time a literary festival has ever taken place in an Oxford college.

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival from March 24th - 29th and whilst the full programme of events, readings, panels, talks, etc., is still being finalized, over 200 speakers will be appearing at the 2006 Festival, including:

Kate Adie; John Berendt; John Carey; Wendy Cope; Candida Crew; Francis Fukuyama; A. C. Grayling; Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time); Adam Hart Davis; Charlie Higson (Young Bond); Bettany Hughes; Clive James; P. D. James; Simon Jenkins; Miles Kington; Doris Lessing; John McGahern; Christopher Meyer; Princess Michael of Kent; Bel Mooney; Michael Morpurgo (former Children's Laureate); Chris Patten; Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials and others); Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines and others); Claudia Roden; Michael Rosen (Michael Rosen's Sad Book; Prunella Scales; Francesca Simon; Colin Thubron; Joanna Trollope; Arnold Wesker; Robert Winston.

The talks that interest me include:

Melvyn Bragg - Twelve Books that Changed the World
March 24; 6 pm; £7.00 - Christ Church
When we consider of great events in the history of the world, we tend to think of wars, revolutions and natural catastrophes. But throughout history there have been moments of vital importance brought about by the written word. Melvyn Bragg presents a vivid reminder of the book as agent of social, political and personal revolution. "Twelve Books that Changed the World" presents a rich variety of human endeavour and a great diversity of characters. Come and listen to Melvyn Bragg discuss his choice — and decide what yours would have been.

Brian Aldiss, John Carey, Maggie Gee and Philip Pullman - Science in Fiction
March 25; 12 pm; £8.00; Newman Rooms
Does the science in fiction have to be accurate? Many fiction authors now research a breadth of topics, from neuroscience to psychiatric disorders, before embarking on a novel. Does this authenticity matter? Have the borders between the scientific and the artistic imagination been breached by scientists? The science writer Brian Aldiss is Britain’s most illustrious SF writer, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is rooted in scientific truth and John Carey, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Oxford and editor of The Faber Book of Science, has examined the writings of both fiction authors and scientists. Maggie Gee chairs what is certain to be a fascinating discussion.

Colin Dexter - Inspiring Books
March 25; 6 pm; £7.00; Newman Rooms
In this series of conversations at the Festival, we invite a major writer to talk about the five books that have most influenced them. Colin Dexter is the creator of probably the most famous fictional character to emerge in Oxfordshire in the last century; the stories that he wrote about Inspector Morse spawned one of the most successful television series ever. He presents his choice of "inspiring books" in conversation with an unconmfirmed speaker, with extracts read by an unconfirmed reader.

Colin Duriez - A Field Guide to Narnia
March 26; 10 am; £6.00; Christ Church (Family event)
With the release a new Disney film version of C. S. Lewis' timeless classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Narnia's popularity is again renewed. This new book by Colin Duriez provides a perfect accompaniment to this wonderful world in A Field Guide to Narnia, revealing the influences that shaped Lewis' thinking, the rich web of interconnections within the Chronicles and the real events, places, objects and people that found their way into the books—including his grandfather’s hand-carved oak wardrobe.

Robert Segal - Very Short Introduction Soapbox: Myth
March 28; 4 pm; Free; Festival Bookshop, Christ Church
Join Robert Segal as he briefly explores the past 300 years of theorizing on myth, from all of the major disciplines, including science, religion, philosophy, literature and psychology.

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The second half of Buffy's season 4 holds some real gems: "Hush" (the nearly dialogue-free episode), "Superstar" (featuring Jonathan as the coolest guy on the planet - love the way they edited the opening titles to include him !); "New Moon Rising" (in which Oz returns from his travels apparently in control of his werewolf side). There's also the thought-provoking (at least to me !) second half of the "Faith wakes up from her coma" double episode, in which she uses a magical device to switch her body with Buffy's. What I find thought-provoking is Faith-as-Buffy's decision to miss her flight out of Sunnydale for the sake of going to the church where three vamps are holding several parishoners hostage at the start of Sunday service. There's no doubt that her action is something that Buffy would have done without hesitation, but why would Faith do it ? After all, she's the rogue Slayer, the one who joined the Big Bad's team in season 3 after accidentally killing the Mayor's deputy, Alan Finch, in "Bad Girls". Faith is the Slayer who said, "Nobody's gonna cry over some random bystander who got caught in the crossfire." - which says a good deal about Faith, while Buffy's response, "I am", says a good deal about Buffy. Faith's decision to go to the church makes me wonder if being in Buffy's body is starting to affect her and make her think like Buffy. Whether, by pretending so hard to be Buffy, she starts to find herself adopting Buffy's values, attitudes and perspective. Her reaction to Forrest's sarcastic comment: "Yeah, you're a killer." "I'm a Slayer, not a killer!" also interests me, since Faith actually is a killer, and whilst Buffy thought she'd killed a man in "Ted", it turned out that he was a serial-killer robot.


Kelly said...

I'm totally jealous, Michele! I hope you will be able to make it to all the events you'd like to attend.

Michele said...

So do I !! The trouble is that March is an expensive month: my brother's birthday, parents' wedding anniversary and Mother's Day all fall in that month... Still I'll get to the Myth one (since it's free !), if no others.

Kelly said...

I hate expensive months, Michele. Ours are a clumped together: November-January (which means February usually stinks too!)

My mother is really good at shopping throughout the year so it doesn't all add up, but I'm always running behind!

Michele said...

I wish I could do that, but my mother is almost impossible to buy for ! My father, on the other hand, often buys his presents months in advance and then we pay him back (to my way of thinking, that's rather pointless !). My brother, though, is easy - I just give him money and he buys the books/Games/DVDs he wants.

The Poodle's Friend said...

I'd love to go to '12 books that changed the world' (unfortunately, I don't live in Oxford!). I can't think of that many books myself, though. I wonder what the 12 could be.
I always thought that season 4 as a whole was nowhere near as good as some of the other seasons, but it has those stand-alones that are truly outstanding. You're right, Hush is an incredible episode. I also really love it because if you listen carefully, all the dialogue that is there when they can talk is somehow related to the idea of talking, to communication. I think touches like that make Buffy an amazing show to watch.

Michele said...

There's a piece about Bragg's list here on my Blog (Twelve Books)...

Yes "Hush" is a totally fascinating episode; likewise "Restless" - the weirdness that is Joss' brain is on full display in that season 4 finale !!