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Oxford Literary Festival tent at Bodlean Library, Oxford

Festival tent

Finally got the prog. for this year’s Oxford Literary Festival, although for reasons that are not entirely clear, I somehow managed to miss Daily Info’s call for reviewers;  so, no free tickets, but no deadlines.

The goodish news is that the festival tent has been reinstated (muted “hurrah!”),  although it’s next to the Sheldonian rather than on the edge of Christ Church Meadow and it remains to be seen whether it creates a central hub  for the event. Still, better than last year when there was no tent at all.

The remains-to-be-seen news is that tickets have been abolished. The alternative – printing off your receipt and making a hand written note of a long convoluted booking code (one per event) and then being manual checked off a list at the door (and possibly having to produce some form of identification) – doesn’t immediately strike your correspondent as a step towards greater efficiency. In fact, it strikes your correspondent as a disaster waiting to happen – particularly at larger events.

Looks as if I’ve missed two of this evening’s tastier events  – the Champagne Evening Tour of the Bodleian (£45) and a Southern Sunday Supper at Brookes (£95). The latter event is  part of the festival’s American Strand and focuses on the traditional food of Louisiana, the U.S. 8th poorest state (20% of the population live below the poverty line and 18% receive food stamps) – can’t help thinking that somebody’s lost the plot.

Oxford Literary Festival 2014, festival tent at Bodlean LibraryAs for the main festival , there’s very little to write home about. The big hitters are Sebastian Barry – a personal favourite, but already sold out (boo) and Margaret Atwood. I did read something by Margaret Atwood a couple of years ago – it was one of the dreariest books I’ve ever read, so shall be giving that event a miss. Much of the rest is tired (weren’t they here last year talking about the same book?, predictable (First World War) or elitist.

After toying briefly with A Little Gay History on the rather spurious grounds that I once met the author at party, I’ve plumped for How the Human Body Creates Itself  on the grounds that it sounds interesting and Me Medicine Vs We Medicine.

Donna Dickenson, author

Donna Dickenson

I first came across bioethicist Donna Dickenson, author of  Me Medicine Vs We Medicine back in 2012 and she swiftly went onto my list of people who are always worth reading or listening to. This year’s offering is about personalized medicine, one of the holy grails of modern pharmaceutical research.  Astute readers of the festival programme may notice a particularly striking portrait of the author by an unnamed local photographer (p.183).