By Scott Hamilton
Book festivals will always be poor relations to gatherings of film and music lovers. It takes about ninety minutes to watch a film, and half an hour or so to see a band, but books can’t be consumed at such speed. Where film buffs and music fans use their festivals to watch movies and sing along to bands, gatherings of bibliophiles are necessarily dominated by talk about books.
Authors are accustomed to working in the cluttered solitude of their studies, and to expressing themselves through a pen or a keyboard, but at a book festival they are forced onto a stage, handed a mike, and asked to become, for an hour or so at a time, raconteurs, comics, and lecturers. Because some of the best scribblers are indifferent talkers, and some wretched writers do a good stand-up act or give a good lecture, festivals tend to offer a somewhat distorted picture of the literary world.