William Golding lived in Marlborough, Wiltshire, for much of his childhood, and his long association with the town continues with William Golding Ltd’s sponsorship of the annual Marlborough Literature Festival. The company sponsor the ‘Golding Speaker’ each year, and previous speakers include Fay Weldon, Salley Vickers, and Louis de Bernières. This year’s Golding speaker was American author Lionel Shriver.
The festival organisers chose a wonderful time to invite Shriver as she had recently caused some controversy and worldwide debate after an event in Australia when an audience member objected to some of Shriver’s views on writing and cultural appropriation. She addressed the furore at the festival, and argued that writers would be stifled if they were unable to inhabit a character that was ‘other’ to them.
Shriver read from, and discussed her latest novel The Mandibles, an economic dystopian fiction, set in the not-all-that-distant future. It sounds a fascinating premise and entirely relevant for our times, based around over-consumption and ever-increasing worldwide debt. As the protagonist states in the novel: ‘Plots set in the future are about what people fear in the present. They’re not about the future at all.’
Shriver discussed how her career only really took off with the astounding success of We Need to Talk about Kevin (2003), her seventh novel, in opposition to many novelists who have a big hit with their first book and ‘always have to try and live up to that accomplishment’. As the Golding speaker, Shriver could certainly have been referring to Golding himself, who struggled at times to equal the phenomenal success of his debut Lord of the Flies.
This event began the 2016 Marlborough Literature Festival, which featured other amazing writers and exciting events. We can’t wait for 2017!