[Via Maud] The Literary Saloon reports on PEN’s Faith and Reason: Writers Speak deal yesterday. All the writers invited spoke and behaved exactly the way you’d expect them to: Rushdie declined to praise himself; Zadie Smith exuded a false modesty and said she was not qualified to do something; Elias Khoury tried to show he was a moral man by (very publicly) declining a government-sponsored event; and Jeanette Winterson
took center-stage — literally, not taking a stand behind one of the two lecterns on either side of the stage that the other readers (save wheelchair-bound Achebe) had used. No notes, no reading, just a few relevant stories from her life — an expert performance, and captivating (and relevant) stuff. She told of being adopted into a strict religious household, where there were only 6 books (the Bible and five books on the Bible) and where, when her mother read her Jane Eyre, it came to quite a different ending. Her mother was a smart woman, she acknowledged, and among the basic truths she taught her was: the trouble with books is you never know what’s in them until it’s too late. And that and other experiences taught Winterson that the one way no one can take a text away from you is by memorizing it.
Brilliant. I wish I could have gone.