“The novel, as a form, has moved into the slow lane.” Novelist and journalist Will Self, discussing his new novel, Phone, at Dublin’s International Literature festival, had some home truths for booklovers at Smock Alley Theatre.
Phone is the final part of Self’s recent trilogy, each of which juxtaposes human pathology, technological innovation and the bodily horrors of warfare. Phone plaits three strands of autism, smartphones and the Iraq war in a stream-of-consciousness Joycean style, a deliberate deconstruction by Self of the traditional codex of the novel.
Typically acerbic, Self gave short shrift to the “snowflake generation’s” digitally influenced intolerance for offence, challenging political censoriousness at his own appearance and at a later contribution to talks hosted by the website Headstuff, where his rather hackneyed hypothesis that women are attracted to latent male violence went down like a blast furnace with snowflakes in attendance; there were, one organiser said, “lots of complaints and some walk-outs”.
Meanwhile, in the O’Reilly Theatre, Ruby Wax cemented her transformation from brassy comedienne to mental health guru with a sold-out reading from her self-help book, Frazzled. The ruby-haired one waxed lyrical on mindfulness to an audience who were keen to share their own mental health journeys in the Q&A.
Self’s observation that literary fiction’s heyday as the “master narrative of culture” has passed seems mirrored by the ILF programme, heavy with spoken word, non-fiction and cross-platform offerings.
Festival programme director Martin Colthorpe says performative events like those by the festival’s artist-in-residence, Nigerian-born poet Inua Ellams, engaged a younger audience. A discussion chaired by Colthorpe on ILF’s future confirmed Dublin’s desire to further diversify and “explore working in a cross-artform way.”
The festival proper continues until Monday, with a programme including a panel discussion on media in the age of fake news and, for children, a comedic take on Gulliver’s Travels, starring Jerry Fish.
Post-festival events in June include Richard Dawkins discussing his anthology of essays, Science in the Soul, in the National Concert Hall. Also eagerly anticipated is the appearance by Arundhati Roy, who won the Man Booker for her outstanding first novel, The God of Small Things, and whose second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, has been published after a ten-year hiatus.
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