I've never been to Oxford Literary Festival, and was surprised at how small this particular venue was, in Christ Church's Master Gardens. There are several venues across the city though, and it's lovely to have these (albeit temporary) hubs spring up for wordsmiths and readers alike.
Before the presentation started, I got chatting to some ladies sitting next to me, one from Faringdon in Oxfordshire, and another from Salisbury, Wilts. They are keen Kindle users, and made some significant impact on me, such that I even started picturing myself buying a Kindle. Me! Ditching paperbacks! Anyway, we shared some book recommendations, chatted about the festival, and since then have become fans or friends on Facebook. Hello to you Sandie Smith, in particular, a self-professed Jodi groupie!
Of course, we're looking all forward to reading 'Lone Wolf', but what did my new friends also recommend?
Only The Innocent ~ Rachel Abbott (only on Kindle)
Dance with A Poor Man's Daughter - Pamela Jooste
Anyway, the Jodi Picoult show. I was so excited. I didn't know quite what to expect, and didn't even know how long Jodi's time slot was for talking to us, but it was very interesting. Jodi not only found time to speak to us for a full hour, but she also personally spoke to and signed books for an enormous queue of people afterwards. One of my all time favourite books (and least favourite movie adaptation) is 'My Sister's Keeper', so I took it along to be signed by the author.
Jodi was engaging, interesting, and came across as an intelligent writer who really has a passion for the stories she tells. We even saw some of the comedic side of our guest speaker. Her personal anecdotes from her life had the audience of about 200 glued to theirs seats, as she explained how she writes and researches the stories, and how her experiences and beliefs which challenge her every day inspires her. If you're a reader, (and I recommend that you try at least one book, if only to see the clever twists work their way out!), you'll know that Jodi tackles ethics in most of her books, and quite a few involve a court case. Jodi's newly published novel 'Lone Wolf', of which an excerpt was read, is a story of wolf whisperer placed into a coma. His children have the moral obligation of deciding if they should have the power to sustain or end their father's life to donate his organs to someone in need. His story brings in questions of morality and cutting edge medicine. That must have taken some researching!
Jodi spoke at length about the research she did to really get a flavour or how wolves live and function as a pack. I now know how to choose a pet dog judging on how important family/aggression/protection is for them (info to bank for the future!), and the ranks of wolves in a particular pack really fascinated me. Alpha, Beta, Diffuser, Tester, Numbers wolves... And it was interesting to hear how much the hunt and the kill of prey cements the animals' relationships and becomes an intricate tool in the pack socialising together. Much like domestic life in many UK households! I didn't know wolves were so intelligent! Jodi kept the crowds thoroughly entertained, even teaching us a short lesson on how to howl like a pack of wolves. You might have seen Jodi demonstrating it on the BBC News? It was incredible to see how such a convincing sound was built from only three (human) voices. I half expected the dogs of Oxford to arrive at the door of the marquee!
The Oxford Literary Festival is not something to be intimidated by, despite its history, reputation, scale and grandeur. It's a fantastic event, and I felt totally literature-cised and refreshed, having absorbed so much literary atmosphere. Thank you to Jodi Picoult and all the organisers for a lovely afternoon.
Follow Jodi Picoult on Twitter @jodipicoult
See you on the flip side...