Gibraltar event

18 Nov 2014

Kate Mosse, Joanne Harris, Erica Wagner, Gibraltar 2014 Kate Mosse, Joanne Harris, Erica Wagner, Gibraltar 2014

I am sitting in Gibraltar Airport lounge, surrounded by Literary Festival dignitaries – from where I’m parked, I can see Lord Carey, Ben Okri, Claudia Roden, Nicholas Parsons, and Patti Boulaye.  If the plane goes down (yikes) there’ll be some fabulous headlines.

The Gibraltar Literary Festival has certainly been an interesting  – and intense – experience.  I was here for a panel discussion skilfully chaired by Erica Wagner (for many years literary editor of The Times), along with writers Joanne Harris and Kate Mosse. Among other things, we talked about the politics of book jackets: how novels by women are often dumbed down, visually, and in the process, trivialised.  Then Mosse made a point that says it all: ‘if David Nicholls had been Davina Nicholls,’ she said, ‘there would have definitely been a kiss on the cover of One Day.’ Later, I went to hear Mosse talk about her excellent new novel The Taxidermist’s Daughter (which she called ‘a bit of fun’, making me want to curl up in the foetal position and give up writing forever). Mosse set up the Orange (now Bailey’s) prize for Fiction and told the story of how, at the prize’s launch, the first question from the media was: ‘Are you a lesbian?’

You’d think the literary world would be enlightened, egalitarian, valuing only talent but there is still a long way to go (even though women buy more books than men). People like Mosse and Harris and Wagner – and the brilliant Maggie Gee, (another fascinating talk in Gibraltar), who speak out about this, articulately and uncompromisingly and with humour, are an inspiration.  I am coming off the rock feeling very lucky to have met them.

Maggie Gee at Gibraltar 2014 Maggie Gee at Gibraltar 2014

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