Literature; let’s think about that word. For an aspiring writer such as myself (particularly one with no appropriate qualifications in the subject), the word literature prompts a small hiccup of anxiety, one that has me pushing myself back in my seat and sidling my pen away in embarrassment. For your average reader, literature – defined in the dictionary as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit” – probably means Shakespeare or Proust, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky; it conjures up images of dense tomes thick with symbolism and complicated metaphors, of arrogant book club members laughing derisively at your copy of Harry Potter.
For this reason, prospective visitors to Cheltenham Literature Festival could easily be put-off the event. However, at this particular festival, it is not just the varied array of speakers (including comedian John Cleese and cricketer Kevin Pietersen) that works to negate the idea that literature is only for the elite.
On Saturday October 4th, just two days into the ten-day festival, readers and writers alike were treated to the unassuming opinions of the author, Nick Hornby, who talked passionately about the rise of “cultural snobbery”. With clear and honest admiration for the work of John Carey, Hornby suggested that it is not for him or anyone else to tell readers what is good, but it is in fact for readers themselves to decide. He went on to discuss (rather comically) the misguided notion that people who read books are better than those who don’t and eventually this brief, but rather poignant topic ended with Hornby firmly stressing his belief that you should only read a book if you’re enjoying it.
It was a refreshing (and inspiring) insight into the mind of an author whose novels are not only international bestsellers, but have also, in the case of Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About A Boy and A Long Way Down, been adapted into successful films.
• Cheltenham Literature Festival runs until October 12th. For more information visit Cheltenham Literature Festival or follow @cheltfestivals on Twitter.
• Nick Hornby’s new novel ‘Funny Girl’ is out on November 6th.