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tv   Talking Books at Hay Festival  BBC News  June 18, 2017 10:30am-11:00am BST

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,,,,,,,,;,,,,,,,f ,, post in history. nothing yet from the couple themselves on social media. time far a leak, at theweather— new time for a look at the weather now with helen willetts. another. day across the board with very few exceptions. may creep up a little temperatgres may creep lip erlittle temperatpres may creep pp erlittle yesterday temperatpres may creep pp a little yesterday because temperatures may creep up a little yesterday because we have got on yesterday because we have got plenty of sunshine around as well. p lenty of sunshine around as well. satellite picture showing you the satellite picture showing you how expensive it is. cloud in the north—west of scotland, limiting the strength of the sun here. particularly for england and wales, very high levels of uv, about as strong as it gets in the uk. it will strong as it gets in the uk._lt_\alill a little bit of fair continue. a little bit of fair weather cloud bubbling up and it would be remiss of me not to mention the really small of the really small chance of thunderstorm because of the heat.
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for the vast majority, dry and fine and warm. pretty uncomfortable night for most of us sleeping - but for most of us sleeping tonight but tomorrow again looks - and dry for tomorrow again looks hot and dry for many. the air tomorrow again looks hot and dry for many. the - air creeping south many. the cooler air creeping south gci’oss many. the cooler air creeping south across and across scotland and northern ireland. again low 30s in the south and east. hello, this is bbc news. the headlines: government staff are being drafted in to manage the response to the grenfell tower fire following fierce criticism. a team of civil servants have been embedded in the council office after residents complained they've received little help. those affected by the blaze. to allow mps more time to scrutinise brexit legislation. it's been described as an unusual move. 57 people are killed in a forest fire in central portugal which continues to spread.
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many of the victims burned to death in their vehicles when they were trapped by the flames. a new report has highlighted the uk's growing wealth inequality, estimating that i% of the population owns 14% of its total assets, worth about £11 trillion. now on bbc news, it's time for talking books with rebecca jones. hello and welcome to talking books at hay festival. hay has been inviting audiences to talk, to think, to read and to reflect for 30 years. over ten days, 250,000 people will rub shoulders with some of the world's greatest writers, thinkers and performers. all here in the beautiful
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surroundings of the brecon beacons in wales. compared writing to surfing. he's written 28 books for adults and children, and his latest, the boy behind the curtain, is about his childhood growing up in western australia and the impact that's had on his work. applause. now, most writers don't have a fish named after them. but then, tim winton is not most writers. he wrote his first novel, an open swimmer, when he wasjust i9
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years old, and he's gone on to write nearly 30 more books for adults and children, all very different, but to my mind, all sharing an ear for language and an eye for the natural landscape, arncirhe'rspultedpff that literary and popular success. and it's a series of essays, or true stories, about his life and the things that have influenced him. so, tim, welcome to hay. thank you. is the boy behind the curtain the manual which explains what makes tim winton tick? uh... well, i wouldn't be so direct as that. but i guess ijust got to a point in my life where having made things up for a job for a living, i was trying to explain myself to myself primarily.
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you are a pretty self—effacing guy, you do not court literary celebrity, do you? as just to understand where i've come from, the kinds of person i've been, the kinds of versions of myself. so it's just sort of unpacking, i suppose. there are things you forget about your own life that re—emerge once you reach the lofty plateau of middle age. how difficult did you find it writing about yourself, and were you any good at it? no, i didn't feel i was any good at it, it was very hard work, because as i've said, i've spent a lifetime making stuff up and it's quite low responsibility, really, when you are a novelist. i mean, you have a responsibility to
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the thing itself, to make it work, so that it's organically whole and authentic. but when you are writing about yourself in terms of giving an account of yourself, you are also including the lives and well—being of others, and no onejoined up to be in my circus. so, yeah, you have a kind of responsibility not to trample all over other people's feelings. ijust thought, this is why i'm not a journalist, this is why i'm a novelist. and yet i pressed on and i suppose ifound, accidentally, i had a book. let's delve a bit deeper. the book has, in my view, one of the most arresting opening sentences i've read in a long time and i wondered if you would read us a short extract from the beginning.
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i'll give it a try. thanks. when i was a kid, i liked to stand at the window with a rifle and aim it at people. i hid behind the terylene curtain in my parents' bedroom with a 22 and whenever anyone approached, i drew a bead on them, i held them in the weapon's sight until they passed by. armed and watchful, and that was the best part of it. handling the rifle indoors without adult supervision was forbidden. this was a fundamental rule. and i saw the sense in this regulation, and yet, at 13, whenever and drew the rifle out. i handled it soberly with appropriate awe, a respect laced with fear, but then i carried it to the window and aimed it at innocent passers—by. this didn't only happen only a time or two, i did it for months, i stood behind the filmy curtain,
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alert and alone, looking down the barrel of a gun at strangers. laughter. applause. why did you do it? and one of the reasons i wrote it, and for a while, iforgot i even did it. he had been transferred to the south coast called albany which at the time was an active whaling town. i found myself amongst strangers, the weather was different, it was british weather, really. i didn't know anybody and i was about to go into high
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school for the first time. i think ijust felt besieged and in an alien place. i was anxious, i think. i would go to the window and i would be calm and i looked down the rifle sight and be able to contain the world and people to just this very narrow focus. standing at a window pointing it at strangers. had i been seen, had the rifle barrel snagged on mum's pristine terylene curtain and the trajectory of my life would have been altered, in a small town, my dad was the cop. i mean, i could have been shot! family is important to you and the book, indeed, is dedicated to your mum and dad and they make many appearances in the book,
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not all of them flattering. they said. tim. did you have any . , , of this, soiling himself in public? she took it to her smocking group and the ladies laughed like drains, as they say. you touched at the beginning on how this book enabled you to work through some things that have influenced your fiction and one of the re—occurring themes, it seems to me, are chaos, accidents and chance, the way that life in a way spins on a dime. loses his fingers right at the beginning of the book and fish has the accident that in many ways goes on to define the whole
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of the book. ijust wondered where that came from. i think it came from ourfamily culture which was defined by the old man's job. dad was a traffic cop. we would go to the police picnic, the christmas picnic, every year, and as families, we would hive off into our groups, there would be liquor and gaming over there, heavy haulage up there, the vice families would all gather around the cake —— keg and the merry—go—round and we were in traffic. traffic had subgroups, we were in accidents. all our dads and mums were in thejob, as it was called, but when we asked, what does your old man do?
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yeah, the old man is in accidents. accidents were family culture, employment, dad was a motorcycle cop and his job was to go and either stop people from speeding, or fine them for speeding, or pick up the pieces when it all came unglued. so in a sense, we lived in a very safe, nurturing household, where mum and dad did everything they could to keep disorder outside. but, you know, dad, whether he liked it or not, brought havoc home with him every night, every day. and some days you could tell, some evenings if he came in, you could tell that he'd been at a prang and you knew it had been a serious one, or a fatal, as we used to call it. the old man's been out at a fatal, which sort of made it sound very normal, but it's terrible. he'd come home, his mood would be different, he would smell different, he would smell of disinfectant and petrol and this weird iron kind of smell, that i learned was the smell of blood. so, the kind of great world of consequence he would bring home with him physically and you'd pick up on that as a kid.
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trauma was sort of central in a sort of way to our happy life. through my dad's work, i was seeing how quickly and how often people's safe, predictable and happy lives were changed in a moment. you're literally t—boned by life, something else would come along and smack into you and that's been my bread and butter as a novelist, in a way. your father had an accident when you were five and you had a serious accident when you were 18, which, in the book, you describe as a gift. i wondered why that was. it's taken me a long time to realise that some of the terrible things that happen to us in our lives do provide us certain
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opportunities, and in my case, i went to an 18th birthday party, i went late and someone dropped me off, just as the keg ran out, and i got a lift home with somebody and i woke up in hospital. we'd gone through the front wall of a girls' school in a car and i was in hospitalfor a while. physically, my life changed as a result. and what it meant was, in brief, really, was that i hurtled faster into the writing life. it intensified my vocation, in a way. there were certain physical things that i had planned on being able to do. by this stage, i was committed to being a writer. i always knew that was a dud gig when it came to making a living but i thought i would do that and i'm a big strong lad, i could work on a building site, or work as a deckhand
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on a lobster boat. after the accident, i just couldn't do that. do you honestly think you would not have been a writer had you not had that accident? i would have been a writer, but i would have been on a slower train. all of my friends were having a good time and i think i wrote three books before i was 2a and got married and had a baby. i was really strangely intensely focused. you had, at the age of ten, stood up in front of your classmates and said, "i want to be a writer." what was their reaction? i think i said, "i am going to be a writer." the presumption was breathtaking then and seems much more breathtaking now. i had never met a writer until i went to university and i didn't know i would go to university because people like me didn't go to university when i was a kid. i don't know where that came from. i think i wrote a good poem that impressed the student teacher and maybe it was just that shot of adrenaline of approval that someone finally understood
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what i thought about myself, you know? you don't get many moments in life when someone agrees with you fundamentally. and i got a good enough mark. but everyone laughed, you know? and they were right to laugh. what a ridiculous thing to say and what a ridiculous thing to try to be, particularly in australia in the ‘60s. to be a writer and make a living, it's all wrong. as i've said before, i grew up on the wrong side of the wrong country in the wrong hemisphere, what was i thinking being a literary novelist? my goodness! we talked about your accident at 18 and then you talked about how you wrote feverishly and in many ways, those early years are characterised by your desire to write, but it was also an economic necessary, wasn't it? you had a young family. and am i right you had three desks in your study? yes.
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so if you got stuck on one project, you could wheel the chair over to another one. explain how that worked. we were young and poor and i was writing almost a book every year. i think i wrote almost ten books in my 20s. i guess because i can but mostly because i had to. so i had this room that was essentially an enclosed veranda. the stumps were gone so it was sloping down, you know, the chair with the wheels, you're sloping towards the desk. it was gravity saying, "keep at it, keep at it." if you would try and push back from the desk... i had three desks along this sort of enclosed veranda which was freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer. if i got stuck on something, i just couldn't afford to try and figure it out so i would just leave it because i'm a great avoider of conflict, and i would just go
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on to do something else. the problem would solve itself in my absence. yes. and then you had this enormous success with your novel cloudstreet, which has been described as the great australian novel. it sold in its hundreds of thousands. did that take the pressure off? financially, yeah, it saved our bacon. i have a certain affection for that book. because, you know, quite literally, that christmas, my wife drove down to the city, we had no money in the bank at all. she went and asked if we could have, i think it was 150 bucks, just whatever, if they could spot us 150 bucks to get us through christmas, to buy some food, and maybe buy the kids a couple of presents. she had to do this humiliating song and dance at the bank. the it was only a few months later that we were getting calls from not just the branch manager but the big executives at the bank asking if we would like
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to come out to lunch. we politely declined. it was really that close. we were desperate. that made life a little easier for us in every sense, except walking down the street. suddenly, we were visible. we were living in this tiny fishing town and i was the only male in the town that wasn't either a skipper or a deckhand and we had a big veggie garden and i had long hair. everyone thought i was a drug dealer until i was on television as this writer of cloudstreet. i was an overnight success after ten books. it has not all been plain sailing because you write in the book, you describe it as having a nervous breakdown, when writing another novel called dirt music and this is not you at the beginning
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of your career, this was 20 years in. i'd been writing this book for seven years and i thought i'd finished my last draft and i told my publishers it was all good to go and they announced it to the world that there was this book coming from me. it had a slot, it was all real, and then there was this day when it was finished, my wife left to go to work and i'm wrapping it up to send this dirty great thing off, she got home at the end of the day and i was still there wrapping it up, unwrapping it, looking through. i had this sick feeling that it wasn't there. i wanted to just burn it and run away and never speak of it again. it felt like people's jobs were on the line and i made this commitment to people. as part of my family upbringing,
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i just couldn't let them down, because they would be so disappointed in me. i got up in the middle of the night one night and just thought, stuff it, and i got on my bike and i rode down to the office in the dark and i got a ream of green photocopy paper, sharpened 20 pencils, and started again from the beginning and rewrote the entire novel in pencil in 55 days and nights. i think the first night that i wrote i went for so long that i stopped and it was dark, and i think it was the second day, or night after the second day, and ijust kept going in this kind of red—hot fury. i finished the book and sent it off and it got published. i would never do that again. some of the endings of your books some readers find rather vexatious. i'm thinking in particular of your novel the riders and you talk in this book that
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you are a novelist who resists the full shape of closure. i wonder why you do leave the door ajar. i think it reflects the openness of life. i think closure is a construct. closure as a therapeutic idea has merit, there is no question. but for most of our lives, we don't have resolution because it's not available. in many instances, it's not possible. so many of us die without getting to the end of the sentence. but the idea that you would wrap everything up at the end of a book seems cheap to me. a thought about your relationship with the natural landscape, because i don't think anybody can read a tim winton novel without smelling the salt, feeling the sea on their skin. i did wonder, is landscape ultimately more important to you than plot?
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yes. landscape's where i begin, it's the first character. it dictates the logic of what's going to happen in the story. it dictates who the characters will be, what kind of people they will be, what sort of lives they will lead. and of course, in australia, landscape is really significant. you know, in the shaping of character. you are a great surfer... i don't know if i'm a great surfer, i'm a recidivist surfer. i've been doing it since i was five years old and i'm keener than i was when i was a teenager. you still surf? yeah, i love to surf, it is liberating. it is a bit like a writing for me. writing, and like reading, when it's going well
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as a reader, it's the same as when you are a writer, you are in the eternal present tense, you are just taken up with riding the momentum of the wave. as a novelist, that's kind of what i do as well, i go up to the desk every morning, iwait, i bob around, and i'm waiting for something to show up. it is some event from across the horizon, some energy that i turn around and try to match its speed and ride it to the beach and the feeling is divine when it works. laughter. applause. thank you. tim, it's been great, thank you so much. tim winton. good morning. temperatures are
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rising in the sunshine again. very strong sunshine, if you are out and about today, enjoying the lovely summer about today, enjoying the lovely summer sunshine, just a warning. yesterday, the warmest day of the year so far with a smidgen over 30 degrees, pretty hot in many areas. i think we will see higher today. beautiful weather pictures sent in. 0ne beautiful weather pictures sent in. one of my favourites, looking towards the brecon beacons. sunshine through the trees. not much cloud to speak of. more for northern ireland and western scotland. the sunshine coming out across antrim and across much of the grampians towards the
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central lowlands. through the rest of the day, the weather front sticks around across the north west of scotland, the highlands and islands. bullying in quite a lot of moist air and patchy rain and drizzle. —— pulling in. it should brighten in shetland and later 0rkney. brighter weather in eastern parts of scotland. the eastern side of northern ireland. england and wales will see temperatures into the high 20s inland, fresher on the coasts. however, still pretty warm. the higher temperatures, we could see a late thunderstorm, remiss of me not to mention it, but an outside chance. very strong sunshine. around the coast where it feels cooler with the coast where it feels cooler with the sea breeze, quite refreshing, the sea breeze, quite refreshing, the sun is just as strong. does not matter if it is 21 degrees or 31
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degrees. the last round of the golf today. more likely to see thunderstorms here. very unsettled pa rt thunderstorms here. very unsettled part of the world at the moment. 0vernight part of the world at the moment. overnight for us, it continues on a dry note. the rain is still with us on scotland. 20 degrees overnight in london. the humidity is building all of the time. really uncomfortable last night. more widely tonight. hot air staying put in the south. fresher further north. the weather from close by. we will by tuesday still be in the hot air in the southern half of the uk. good news for many but not for all of us. see you later. this is bbc news. the headlines at 11.00. government staff are being drafted
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in to manage the response to the grenfell tower fire — following fierce criticism. the chancellor, philip hammond, has told the andrew marr programme that he supports a public inquiry. what i'm hearing from the leading fire safety experts is that it isn't necessarily necessary to retro fit sprinklers to make a building fire safe. i don't want to call that judgment, because i'm not an expert, but i do think we need to look through the public enquiry at all the evidence. church services take place across the country — to remember those affected by the blaze. the queen's speech to parliament next year is to be cancelled, to allow mps more time to scrutinise brexit legislation. at least 43 people are killed in a forest fire in central portugal —
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