n the night that former
President Bill Clinton addressed the Hay book festival in Wales,
the initial greeting came from Wales First Minister Rhodri Morgan
-- in Welsh. He said things like Croeso i Gymru (Welcome
After which, Clinton told the audience he was pleased to hear
those opening remarks in the old Celtic tongue. That way, he said,
he knew he wasn't the only one speaking a foreign language.
Hay there ...
Bill Clinton referred to the Hay book festival as a "Woodstock of
the mind," adding that any town with one bookstore for every 32
people "is all right with me."
Frank McCourt did not have tourism in mind when he wrote
"Angela's Ashes" and "'Tis," but the books and the author have had
an impact. They've also stirred some controversy.
Some readers were offended
at McCourt's take on the Catholic church in Ireland. During a
session at the Hay book festival in Wales, he referred to the
"heavy hand" of the church that lay on the country during his
childhood. "Now you might say," he continued, "that you have the
church in other places like Italy, too, but at least in Italy you
have the cuisine."
Now that he is well-known, McCourt said, "I'm a voice of the
Irish Tourist Board."
When it comes to the Emerald Isle, he said, "I'm in a constant
state of seduction." Returning to Ireland to live has its
temptations, he said, but he would miss New York, "which is like a
buffet where you can take all you want from different
Besides, he would miss a very specific pastime. Calling himself
a "traffic light pervert," McCourt said he delights in standing at
New York intersections watching the street dramas that erupt, such
as when one cab bumps another, and then the sudden end to each
contretemps when the red light changes to green and the entire cast
of characters moves on.
On the wagon
What is the "world's favorite form of transportation"? According
to author Frank McCourt, it is the bandwagon.
Insider regrets failing to ask if it is commissionable.
His & her fun
Noted Welsh author Jan Morris told her audience at the Hay book
festival that she has "written some cities into the ground."
Once, though, she simply imagined a city, but readers generally
concluded she was writing about a real place. "Only one person got
it," she said, "a woman in her 80s from Iowa."
The author gained some notoriety years ago when, as a published
author already, under the name James Morris, she underwent a
In the wake of that, she told festival-goers, she had occasion
to go from one London club to another on the same day, visiting one
as a woman and the other as a man, because she was a member of one
as a woman and the other as a man.
"It was fun," she said. That is a bit of fun most of us won't
Nice try, kids
Louis de Bernieres, author of "Corelli's Mandolin," reported
that fame has brought all sorts of changes to his life, not the
least a bulging mailbox.
He told an audience at the Hay book festival in Wales that
schoolkids are sending him letters with long lists of questions
about himself, his thinking, his books, etc. -- questions he said
he often does not even know the answers to himself.
Noting that a full response from him would virtually write the
papers for the inquiring students, he said he replies to the
requests as follows: "You write my next novel, and I'll write your
The movie "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" does not adhere precisely
to the story line in the book it is based on.
When asked how he felt about that, the book's author, Louis de
Bernieres, wasn't too enthusiastic.
He said it is like "having your baby's ears put on