Manchester Literature Festival’s event: Rebecca Solnit in conversation with Jeanette Winterson was joyous. I loved every minute of it and had a memorable, happy evening.
Firstly I love being out in Manchester. I get a lovely feeling of nostalgia for my university days and this was especially strong because I parked next to my old halls, and the event was on the Manchester University Campus (obviously not in the Physics building – but near enough!).
I was an hour early and needed to get some food, and I was alone, so I decided to pretend I was a confident person who can happily eat in a bar alone. I nearly wimped out and went to Costa (where being alone is more acceptable, in my mind), but stepped up and went to a lovely bar where I know they sell nice food. Ordered a pint and a Caesar salad, sat alone and read my book while happily enjoying my food and drink.
When I arrived at the lecture theatre, as I was on my own I thought I might get a single seat near the front (it was already quite full). There was a spot right on the front row (most of the front was reserved and, sadly, stayed almost empty for the whole thing). So I had a prime spot. Excellent.
I love Rebecca Solnit. She didn’t disappoint, and was just as eloquent in her conversation as she is in her written text. I admire her greatly. She writes things I wish I had could have thought of myself. Her arguments on feminism make me want to memorise them so I can be better at talking about it with people. She says things I wish I had the guts to say, but find I sometimes stay quiet because I can’t find the right words, or more likely haven’t got the energy to enter a battle against day to day misogynistic shit. She is unapologetic about it. She inspires me to be more political. I’ve only read two of her books (both this year) but they stand out as being amongst my favourite. Mostly I feel empowered by her words, and I don’t say that lightly and for dramatic effect – I feel like she speaks the words I wish were already in my head.
We firstly got a reading from her new book, The Mother of All Questions. I have a copy already and was gutted that there would be no signing afterwards. I didn’t have any bad feeling about this, of course, Solnit wasn’t feeling 100% and I was just glad the whole thing wasn’t cancelled.
Then Jeanette Winterson led a wide ranging conversation that included a lot about feminism and politics. We had Solnit’s take on the current Weinstein news, and of course Donald Trump had to be addressed. I was glad I had taken the time to read Winterson’s memoir of growing up in working class Accrington, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (link to my review here).
If my memory is reliable enough (and it isn’t always) this was the first literature event I’ve attended. It seems unbelievable to write that, but I think it’s true. I am so glad I was taking notice when Manchester Literature Festival announced their events – there were so many others I would have loved to attend – but this one stood out as a must be there for me. I read Men Explain Things to Me earlier in the year (review here), and Hope in the Dark over Summer (review here). I have two more of her books waiting to be read A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and The Mother of all Questions. I’m thankful that she is a prolific writer because I won’t run out of things to read by her anytime soon.
On the way home my playlist provided me with happy singalong songs including Holiday by Queen Madonna herself, and Ca Plane Pour Moi the Presidents of United States of America version, if you’ll forgive me, a band I don’t generally like, but I dare you to not sing along!
I think in the future I might start challenging potential new friends with the words ‘Do you greatly admire Rebecca Solnit?’ and if they don’t or haven’t heard of her. I don’t know, forget it!
I remember seeing this on twitter earlier in the year, by Caroline Criado-Perez and I completely agree!
I will be on the look out for more events to go to next year. Thanks Manchester Literature Festival for putting on the great event!