The Books LIVE team are out and about during the 2014 Open Book Festival and have been snapping photos as they go. Have a look at what’s going on by browsing through the album on Facebook:
Alert! Lebanese-American author Rabih Alameddine, who is currently in Cape Town for the 2014 Open Book Festival, has been longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for his fourth novel, An Unnecessary Woman.
Established in 1950, the National Book Award is a prestigious American literary prize administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organisation. The winner, which will be announced by Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) on 19 November 2014, will become a permanent member of the National Book Foundation family – an organisation which includes many illustrious names. The shortlist will be revealed on 15 October this year.
Antony Loewenstein, another international author who is in Cape Town for the festival, alerted Books LIVE by tweeting at Alameddine:
Alameddine will be discussing his novel on Saturday morning at 10 AM at the Fugard Studio. Come and listen to him and Rebecca Davis having a necessary conversation about Aaliya Saleh, his 72-year-old protagonist.
Legendary fantasy writer Raymond E Feist spoke to Sarah Lotz about Magician’s End, George RR Martin, killing off his characters and what he’s working on next.
“Raymond E Feist. The legend,” Lotz said. “I just want to say, thank you for making my childhood so brilliant. I was reading you as a child, and my daughter is now reading you. So thank you very much.”
“That’s lovely,” Feist said.
Feist’s big breakthrough was Magician, published in 1982. He revealed that when his agent called him, he said “Magician is a really big book”.
“I thought, okay he’s going to ask me to cut stuff. But he said, ‘But I think it could be bigger.’
“So he said, ‘We need this’, and we did a shopping list, and about a week later I sent him a thing and said ‘This is what I’m going to do’. In the original draft there was no Murmandamus. He said, ‘I want a character in disguise’. There was no Squire Roland. He said, ‘Pug needs a foil where Carline’s concerned.”
“So that was all your editor?” Lotz asked, incredulous.
“Yeah. Well he told me what he wanted, I had to figure out how to do it,” Feist said. “And that’s when Jimmy said, ‘I’m not getting off the stage. I’m here, I’m digging in, and you can’t get me out with nukes!’
“And of course he became easily one of my most popular characters ever. The big three, okay, there’s Thomas and a couple of others, but my heavy-hitters are Pug, Arutha and Jimmy. I could have written a complete Jimmy the Hand franchise. I could have written 20 books on that guy.
“So, anyway, I spent about three months writing all the stuff my agent wanted in Magician, and then my phone rang and he said ‘Great! Exactly the book I want! Now cut 50 000 words.”
Feist is currently working on a new trilogy, and says it’s causing him some headaches.
“I’ve got a book that’s really biting me on the butt. I’m fighting with this thing because it’s so many years since I’ve done the first book in a new world? Anyway, it’s called King of Ashes, and it’s a three-act play so there’s going to be three, King of Ashes, then King of Embers and King of Fire. And I didn’t realise until I put that title on that everyone goes: ‘Oh, it’s like Game of Thrones!’. Yeah. It’s just like Game of Thrones, but with show tunes.
“But you were killing off characters long before George RR Martin,” Lotz interrupted.
“People think that because George went off and did TV for a number of years. But I think George’s first novel Fevre Dream [Martin’s first is actually 1977’s Dying of the Light – ed.] came out about the same time mine did. I met George back in 1984 and he’s a really terrific guy. Very bright and a very gifted writer. But he went off and did TV, he was the headliner on Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. And then he got tired of Hollywood and decided to go back to writing novels. And then he wrote A Song of Ice and Fire. And the world shuddered.
“I mean, I’ve killed a lot of characters too, but not like that maniac!”
An audience member took the opportunity to ask Feist if he enjoyed killing off his characters:
Our editor Jennifer Malec covered the gig:
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The second morning of the 2014 Open Book festival kicked off with a discussion between Sefi Atta, Fiona Leonard, and Zukiswa Wanner, chaired by Kgomotso Matsunyane.
Atta said she first started writing because she didn’t recognise anyone like her in mainstream literature. She spent the first 20 years writing what she had to write, now she can write about topics and issues of her choice.
Wanner said she is really passionate about Africa but it pisses her off sometimes. Matsunyane asked if she thinks there is any hope for Africa, and Wanner said she has mixed feeling but that seeing African presidents taking selfies doesn’t restore her confidence.
Atta added that she believes all people are complaining about leadership and humanity: “It’s not an African problem.”
Leonard said that Africa’s mentality of waiting for help frustrates her. She argued that in order to survive, people need to ignore the government and be more proactive.
The conversation went up a gear when Matsunyane said she wanted more sex in the panelists’ books. Atta said she only writes about sex if she needs to: it’s “like going to the loo”. Wanner agreed and said she only writes about sex if the narrative demands it.
Matsunyane asked the writers about their writing process. Atta said her background as an accountant has helped her to stay disciplined and dedicated, while Leonard said she started writing in snatches while her daughter was young but that writing becomes easier when you do it every day.
The authors agreed that reading is the most important thing for a writers to do. Leonard reads a book a week, and Wanner believes that every book she has read in her life has influenced her writing – either helping her to write better or to avoid bad writing.
Books LIVE’s Erin Devenish covered the gig:
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Zakes Mda is in Cape Town for the 2014 Open Book Festival and he sat down with Books LIVE during the opening day media junket for a chat about being a storyteller, the reader’s interpretation of stories and his latest novel, Rachel’s Blue. Here is the first part of the conversation:
Books LIVE: What is the most important message you want to get across with Rachel’s Blue?
Zakes Mda: Oh dear, you know what? A reader find his or her own message in any book. There is no way that you can make a reader get a message from a book. What I am trying to say is I don’t see how, as a writer, you can “create” a message. The reader is an interpreter. The message that you get is different from the message that he gets. A reader finds a message that he or she wants to find. The writer tells a story, the reader finds a message – if there is any message at all.
But surely as a writer you have an intention …
No! My intention is just to tell a story! Really! My message is … you see, if I wanted to give a message I would write a pamphlet or tell the news or something. I am a storyteller. I tell stories.
Don’t you feel that writers have a responsibility to to educate, to inform … ?
No, no, no. Why!?
But then what is the purpose of storytelling? Is it pure entertainment?
It depends on each storyteller. You cannot prescribe to a storyteller what their purpose should be. Each storyteller has his or her own reasons for telling something. The age of prescription is gone – where you prescribe what one is to do. It went away with the days of communism and all those totalitarian times where you say, “Artists should do this,” and you describe the role of the artist. The role of the artist is to do what the individual artist wants to do or feels his or her role is.
And you say your role is only to be a storyteller?
My role is to tell the story and that is all, you see? What you make of that story is up to you. In many senses you might find something useful in that story but sometimes you may not find anything useful. It is up to you what you do with that story.
And if someone finds something in you story that you inherently disagree with, do you as the storyteller have a right to opinion on that, having distanced yourself from the story and its interpretation?
I cannot interpret the story for you. The interpretation that you make of the story is – that is your interpretation. It is now your story. You own it. I wrote it and gave it to you and now you take it and run and make what you make of it. I am not there anymore. I am gone! There is nothing I can do if you interpret it the way you do. Who am I to say what it means? Where would I be? It’s not for me to teach you how to interpret my story! You use the tools that you have, that you are armed with. You bring your own experience, your own biography to fill in whatever holes I have left in order to make your own interpretation of the story. It is now yours.
You have now recreated the story. You have now filled in the gaps because it is yours, no longer mine.
Mda will be launching Rachel’s Blue tonight, at the Haas Collective.
The Books LIVE team was out in full force last night to bring you coverage of the Open Book Festival evening sessions. Here is a round-up of the top tweets and photos.
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How often do you get to meet an internationally acclaimed fantasy author in person? Raymond E Feist spoke to Sarah Lotz about Magician’s End and his myriad epic sagas. When asked if Magician’s End is, indeed, the end, Feist said he hoped not.
Jennifer Malec covered the gig:
André P Brink, Karin Brynard, Henry Jack Cloete, Johan Vlok Louw, Jaco van Schalkwyk en Ingrid Winterbach het voorgelees uit hul werk tot groot genot van die Afrikaanse gehoor.
Helené Prinsloo het gaan luister:
From zombies to politics, Andrew Brown, Justin Fox, and Fiona Leonard discussed their issue-driven novels with Diane Awerbuck.
Lindsay Callaghan tweeted snippets of the discussion:
Internationally acclaimed South African authors of Rachel’s Blue and Cobra, Zakes Mda and Deon Meyer spoke to Margie Orford about representing South African literature to an international audience.
Helené Prinsloo tweeted from the discussion:
The City-Press Non-Fiction Award Winner Maria Phalime spoke about her book, Postmortem, to Ferial Haffajee.
Haffejee also announced the winner of the 2014 City Press Tafelberg Non-Fiction Award.
Jennifer Malec tweeted every step of the way: