The Humber Mouth
Hull Literature
Festival 2003

{ Hull Literature Festival 2003 6th - 16th November 2003
 the humber mouth }

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Festival Critic

{ Festival Critic: Steven Hall }

Renegade Soundwave

Writers Day

Ibsen vs. Strindberg

Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army

An Audience with Joan Bakewell

Woza Albert!


Pooh Bear Reading Workshop

Readers Day

Theatre Test Tube

Readers Day:
Jake Arnott, Julia Darling, Patric Gale, James Nash.

Jake Arnott

Author of the hugely (and rightfully) successful novel The Long Firm and its two sequels He Kills Coppers and truecrime, Arnott's work to date has explored crime, crime culture and criminals in stark, dirty, realistic and above all, disturbingly human manner. His novels stand as an important counterpoint to the brown tinted, stylised mockney gangster-ism of films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and other 'where's them shooters/you Muppet' capers with appeared on screen and in print by the bucket load in the late 90's.

In conversation during the first half of the day, Arnott stamped a quick and authoritative opinion onto the discussion:

"The term 'creative writing' is misleading," he said, pretty much straight off the bat. "Writing isn't creative. It should be creative reading."

He went on to explain his feeling that it was the writer reading back the words which had been written and choosing to keep, chop or edit which is the true creative act - looking at the words you have written and, as a reader, deciding what does or doesn't work.

Arnott, like every writer present for this discussion on the act of reading, was great in conversation. In fact, James Nash - who hosted and managed the Writers Day the week before - was left with very little to do as these genuinely engaged writers and their genuinely engaged audience talked their way around reading and the book (stopping to take in the state of the industry, if a writer reads differently to a reader who doesn't write, anecdotes - one of which involved a rush to finish reading War and Peace in a police station, and a brief search for the autobiography with the worst title - I Married the World won).

For his reading in the afternoon session, Arnott delivered a few pages of work-in-progress, something highly unusual in my experience given that most writers try to keep their work tightly under wraps until it's in the dust jacket and on the shelf, but something which Arnott does sometimes apparently, if he likes (and I suppose, trusts) the audience. Needless to say, I'm not going to break that trust by posting the details of his new writing up on the internet, but it may prove to be an interesting departure from is previous work.

Julia Darling

In the afternoon session, Darling read from her collection of poems Sudden Collapses in Public Places which dealt with her experiences of doctors, hospitals, treatment and the strange realities of having cancer. Now, subject matter like that tends to make me wince - it seems almost impossible to write about these kinds of issues without coming over clumsy or sentimental, but Darling's work was wonderfully moving without being gooey, it was strong and empowering in a completely un-disco-lyric kind of way. Above all, it was true, clean, clear-eyed and honest.

It never really occurred to me that a work tackling cancer could really be successful, so it was a revelation to hear Darling prove me so utterly wrong. I'm very grateful to her for that.

Patrick Gale

Patrick Gale's writing is engrossing. I know that much just from hearing him read a short section of his work. Starting with the online anonymous etiquette of internet sex and chatrooms (I'm Mack the mechanic rubbing my oily hands on your oily whatever) Gale's extract showed us a leap of faith, where a chance was taken and a lonely man dropped the act and typed a few lines of truth about himself to a woman he hoped might take a risk on being truthful back.

Gale's control and delivery, the timing in his writing kept the audience firmly locked inside his warm and gentle prose. There was almost a groan when he stopped, and we knew we wouldn't hear what happened next.

In conversation Gale was charged up and energetic, eager to contribute and bursting with points and responses. Like all the writers, he was very generous with the audience, making the whole morning discussion friendly, informal and enjoyable (as with the writers day, writers and audience all went out to lunch together for sandwiches beer and chat before returning for the afternoon session).

James Nash

As I've said, apart from the initial start-up, Nash had very little pushing to do in his role as host and conversation controller. Or maybe, he did and he's just very good at it, so we didn't really notice.

In the afternoon, I finally got to hear some of Nash's poetry and enjoyed his humorous, conversational style a lot. I'd recommend tracking down some of his work, especially the piece in his collection Coma Songs which discusses the Dyson vacuum cleaner as a gay statement.

Sunday 16th November
Readers Day
EICH Gallery

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