Taking the Pith

The evening’s chair, writer and Assistant Editor of The Independent, John Walsh began the evening with examples of parody and how writers often acquire their own voice through stylistic mimicry. Walsh asked the question which presents itself to many writers and readers: ‘Is parody, pastiche or mimicry anything more than a humorous echo of a great writer, or is it a bold and subversive genre, for which we reveal the idiocy of a writer’s pretences?’

Sue Limb, broadcaster and author of numerous books and the Guardian’s Dulcie Domum column, gave a detailed account of her experiences of writing parody, including how despite receiving a frenzy of hate mail claiming that her work was ‘nauseating’, Sue retained a clear ‘relish and love’ for this kind of work. ‘To inhabit another consciousness with satirical intent is all the more delightful and delicious when that consciousness is a very serious one. It has to be a work of love, even though it is a piss take.’

Craig Brown, columnist and satirical writer, talked of his ambiguous relationship with the genre, explaining that overly energetic parody tended not to work, but that if one wanted to generate a large amount of words, which he admitted to often seeking, largely ‘out of greed’, then one may get away with it by using others’ voices to ‘poke fun at them’. Brown proceeded to read a very amusing parody of a Tony Blair speech, taken from his book The Tony Years.

Sebastian Faulks, writer, radio presenter and columnist,  detailed his feelings of parody by explaining his experiences of writing a review on Jackie Collins, describing a technique of isolating the particularly, and obviously, ridiculous in a writer.

An extremely entertaining and humorous talk ended with many questions from our audience, followed by a packed drinks reception.

English PEN would like to thank Craig Brown, Sue Limb, John Walsh and Sebastian Faulks for their involvement, Waitrose for supplying wine for the event, and the Guardian Newsroom for their hospitality .

Report by Nicola Groutage

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/takingthepith/

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