Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. First, Jasper Fforde ‘Book Club’ up close and personal on the River Deck at State Library of Queensland, commencing at the civilised time of 10am. I only managed one rather dull photograph because I didn’t feel comfortable breaking the reverent atmosphere. Other times, it’s just not polite.
I waited with a friendly group of fans (all with different favourite books) as savoury snacks, cheeses, fresh fruit and small packs of mixed nuts were being put on low tables between an eclectic selection of chairs. I watched the bar staff setting up with wine and soft drinks. Scatter cushions were put on long low bench seating and I had my eye on a nice cosy corner.
Guest-of-honour Jasper Fforde talked about his 20-year career working in the film industry with some big names before he decided to write full-time. He has 14 books under his literary belt. These books are called post-modern, sort of parallel universe crime novels; he takes our world and tweaks it. For example, Spec-Ops Thursday Next lives and works inside books, and in ‘Early Riser’ the Welsh population hibernate throughout winter with strange dreams and unsettling encounters. Have a read of this New York Times review. Jasper discussed his writing style, his books, and forthcoming standalone ‘The Constant Rabbit’.
Unfortunately I do not remember the name of our moderator, I know she taught creative writing. She kicked off the Q&A session for us but we were a rather sedate bunch so no fierce debates ensued. I asked Jasper about the gender ambiguity of Charlie Worthing in ‘Early Riser’ and how it was questioned on social media, adding it must have been difficult to write but it works. The closest example mentioned was Virginia Woolf and ‘Orlando’ which contains gender androgyny.
As we sat and snacked and sipped, the view across Brisbane River towards the city was ever-changing. CityCat ferries, a police patrol boat, the Kookaburra Queen paddle wheeler, and a jet boat or two cruised by, almost like a continually scrolling film.
Time was up! All too soon it was over and I was smuggling a packet of mixed nuts into my bag for later. I decided to get serious with the bookshop and purchased the items you see below.
Last item on my agenda, last but not least, was the Closing Address ‘This Way Humanity’.
Soon evening and 5.30pm arrived, as did the audience who piled into The Edge auditorium to hear Jasper Fforde’s closing words on a pretty heavy topic. He delivered a personal 40-minute speech, going straight to the heart of the matter, raising pertinent questions on our future. He gave examples about past, present and Little Daisy as yet unborn but what of her future. Thoughts on where humanity is headed and the universal importance of literacy and book-reading and how we must dare to ignite and explore our imagination.
To be honest, I couldn’t absorb all of the closing address, a thought-provoking mixture of insights and humour, and I’m hoping it will be available online for everyone to read.
By now I was getting hungry. After a stroll through South Bank Parklands with family, we dined at the delightfully casual South Bank eatery Hop & Pickle where I had a super-duper fresh fish supper.
On the walk back to the bus station, we bought sweet treats from Doughnut Time. Yum!
As you can see, I attended morning and evening events over the four days. I travelled by council bus to and from each event. That adds up to 10 bus trips of approximately 45 minutes duration each. Yes, tedious, but I saved on parking fees and had a relaxing read during the journey. Sometimes the bus was almost empty and on the last night it was packed so I stood up the whole way.
My visits were concentrated on one author (as you would have deduced!) yet each event was varied in presentation and content and I am very happy with the outcome.
I started my journey in the early morning with a smokey orange sky over the city. Here is the same spot four days later looking twinkly in the late evening as I say goodbye to Brisbane Writers Festival for another year. Safe travels, Mr Fforde.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward