Last month I attended the second Leamington Literary Salon and it couldn’t have been more different than the first.  Gone was the sophistication of Chanel and in it’s place raw short stories and a comic artist.  The location, once again, was The Real Tennis Club in Royal Leamington Spa which really does suit the Literary Salon so well.  This time I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the invitied speakers, Tim Love and Chris Oxenbury, as I hadn’t Googled them.  On hindsight I think it was probably a good thing that I didn’t, as the evening turned out to be such a mixed experience.

Leamington Literary Salon

Tim Love as up first and, to be fair, he started off well and it felt like he was giving us a literature lesson on how to write a short story and get published.  This went down well with the audience, but I felt he never really finished the point.  What caused a lot of debate was Tim’s views on poetry. According to him poetry, both reading and writing, is in major decline, with not so many poetry books printed or reviewed in the broadsheets. A number of the audience completely disagreed with him, having recently brought poetry and often reading it.  Over the following weeks I also picked up, on Twitter, a couple of poetry sessions, one at Urban Coffee in Birmingham and closer to home at the Leamington Library.  This leads me to believe that poetry reading is very much still in fashion.  I have to admit to not being a poetry reader myself, however I was tempted to buy Love Letters of Great Men, whilst in the New York Library bookshop last summer, but only because of Carrie and Big.

Love Letters of Great Me - Sex and the City
Image source

Tim is a short story writer which, due to our changing lifestyles, he feels will see an increase in readership. Having less leisure time short stories allow us to drift away into another world without having to read hundreds of pages.  Tim then went on to read one of his short stories which described a couple who were looking to start a family and the problems they had with this.  To say it gained a stunned response is an understatement.  I’m not sure whether this bothered Tim or not, but there was a mix of bewilderment and nervous laughter.  Not a story I would have chosen to read in a room full of ladies, I actually found it quite insensitive.  But, then, we don’t all like the same literature and one could say this is what creates the literary debate.

To lighten the mood, we were then treated to a session from Chris Oxenbury.  Instantly the mood changed and everyone was laughing with joy.  Chris started life as a computer games programmer, then turned his hand to being a comedian and now combines art into his repitoire.  Chris believes anyone can draw and provided a grown up draw by numbers just to prove the point.  These days Chris spends his time painitng comedians whilst listening to the comedian on audio books.  This was a great way to finish the evening.

Leamington Literary Salon - Chris Oxenbury
Leamington Literary Salon - draw by numbers

After such a rollercoaster of an evening it soon came to an end.  Liz and Carol’s vision for the Leamington Literary Salon was to introduce a range of writers and artists to the Literary Salon audience.  It really would be tiresome to have the same type of evening every time, even if the content of the novels were as glamorous as Chanel.

Do you agree with Tim – is poetry reading and writing declining? and do you prefer short stories to novels?

Lula Belle x



2 thoughts on “An evening of short stories, poetry and comedy

  1. What a fitting description of a very different evening. Great review and I have lived the whole night again reading it.

    Liz Weston

  2. “Do you agree with Tim – is poetry reading and writing declining?” – well, I think poetry writing’s popular. And I don’t think that due to our changing lifestyles, more short stories will be read. On the night I quoted that in the UK in 2002 “fewer than 25 books of short stories were produced by mainstream publishers. And two thirds were by writers from abroad” (Debbie Taylor, Mslexia, Spring 2003). More recently, the Guardian reported on yet another “poetry market slump” – http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/may/24/salt-poetry-market-slump – following it up by a more hopeful article – how http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/may/30/poetry-new-territory-sales-salt-publishing

    I tried to choose prose that was short, good, and didn’t need to be read off-the-page (which to be honest didn’t leave many options). I chose the piece before I knew the audience demography – it’s worked with an audience before. Subsequently changing my choice would have felt to me like dumbing down (and besides, the replacement might well have been edgy in a different way – my short publisher likes edgy writing). According to the editor who first published the story, it “reveals the depths of faith or illusion love can generate”. The genre’s unsettlingly hard to identify initially. I should have given an intro to it, describing it as Slipstream – it’s not really SF or tragicomedy. The entity deliberately doesn’t follow an embryo’s development but the classic stages of children’s art (a big face, then a “ladder” body etc). I meant the attitude of the 2 people to be revealingly different. You win a few …

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