Hay Festival's first weekend has kicked off with a host of events featuring writers including Colm Tóibín, Helen Fielding and Stephen Fry who discussed issues such as using flashbacks in writing, criticisms of anti-feminism and "aggregating news agencies" such as Facebook.
According to the Guardian, Irish writer Tóibín lambasted the modern literature device of flashbacks, saying that modern writers rely too heavily on them.
Speaking on a panel discussion about Jane Austen on Sunday (28th May), Tóibín said: “We are living in the most terrible age. I know people are worried about Brexit and I know people worry about Donald Trump. But I worry about the flashback. You can’t read any book now – any book – without suddenly, on chapter 2, [the writer] taking you back to where everybody was 20 years ago. How their parents met, how their grandparents met.”
Tóibín urged writers to give readers the chance to figure out the characters' histories and motivations. “I like the business of: we don’t know, it is left out, just imagine it yourself... you do it! I do not want to know how Mr Bennet met Mrs Bennet.”
Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding hit back at critics who call her books anti-feminist, saying: “I think it’s worrying in the first place that people would think a book about a woman laughing about her foibles is not feminist. It is a mark of strength to be able to laugh at yourself, not weakness. Humour is a very powerful tool as we all know for getting through difficult times.”
Fielding, whose latest Jones book last month won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction, said: “If I may, the accusation of it being not feminist is a little shallow.”
Also at the festival, broadcaster Jeremy Paxman shared his views on the media's coverage of Donald Trump's presidency, saying that the media should stop "sneering" at Trump, as he has done “rather better than many people had expected” in his first months in office.
“I don’t like these media class sneerings about Trump,” Paxman said, in conversation with Marcus Brigstocke on Saturday (27th May). “I don’t share his politics on many things, but he was elected on that cockamamie system that they’ve got. He was elected president. And we should respect that.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Fry, who was delivering one of the Festival's Reformations lectures, has called for Facebook and other “aggregating news agencies” to be reclassified as publishers in order to stop fake news and online abuse spreading by making social media subject to the same legal responsibilities as traditional news websites, the Guardian has reported.
Fry accused social media platforms of refusing to “take responsibility for those dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects will have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media, but which they can escape”.
“One thesis I could immediately nail up to the tent flag is to call for aggregating news agencies like Facebook to be immediately classified as publishers. At the moment, they are evading responsibility for their content as they can claim to be platforms, rather than publishers. Given that they are now a major source of news for 80% of the population, that is clearly an absurd anomaly,” he said.