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September 23, 2011

Open Book Festival is a bestseller in the Mother City

Fugard Theatre

The Fugard Theatre. Photo courtesy Timmy Henry

A dazzling thriller with a hint of romance and action that moves at a quick pace … that pretty much sums up the inaugural Open Book Festival in the City Centre.

Hosted at various venues in the inner city, the festival has its attendees in utter thrall as it presents a five-day extravaganza of literary events.

I attended a few of these bookish proceedings at The Fugard Theatre in The Fringe on Wednesday September 21. I was most impressed with the superbly renovated church that houses the Fugard and with the Mervyn Sloman’s smooth organisation of this mammoth event.

The programme is a jam-packed feast for the intellectual and creative mind. Book launches, dinners with your favourite authors, workshops and more are on offer and are sure to provide immeasurable pleasure.

One such enriching experience was the discussion with renowned writer Christopher Hope. Hosted by Alison Lowry, head of Penguin Books South Africa, this discussion centred on Hope’s latest novel, Shooting Stars.

A touching story about two childhood best friends who grow up to be men on opposite sides of religion and politics, this novel delves into the repercussions of power in all areas of life.

Hope is now an expat writer living in France but visits his home country often in prose and reality. Answering pertinent questions about his writing style, he mused about his love/hate relationship with South Africa. It was a treat seeing him on stage, especially since most of his earlier novels were banned during apartheid.

Next on my literary roster was the fascinating Writer’s Sports 1 event. This contest between some of the most brilliant minds in the writing industry saw them go keystroke to keystroke to write the best worst page.

Competing for the tantalising Leopard’s Leap Wines prize were local scribes Sam Wilson, Shaida Kazi Ali, Sarah Lotz, Justin Fox and the rather dishy Tom Eaton. From a murderous invasion of the Mother City by a gigantic squid to a touching romance and a cyborg ménage à trois gone wrong, watching these talented writers take the mickey out of their writing was hilarious.

The Open Book Festival runs until Sunday 25 September. Tickets are available at Computicket. For more information please visit www.openbookfestival.co.za

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