Cúirt (roughly pronounced "corch") is Galway's international literary festival. It's a really exciting time to be here. Sometimes there are famous authors you can't wait to see and sometimes you discover the work of a new writer, and even if you don't attend a single reading there's still lots of craic to be had at the pub afterwards. It is very much a literary festival though--hugely 'prestigious' to the point where the festival committee won't ask any writer who's garnered 'too much' commercial success. Some folks are pretentious (more the hobnobbers than the writers themselves), but the rest of us feel free to make fun of them.
This year the speaker I was most excited about was Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. I couldn't believe tickets for this event were only €6! And let me tell you, she is AMAZING. Not only is she incredibly smart and articulate--you'd expect that from a Pulitzer winner, right?--but she is also unbelievably humble. Everything she said impressed me. She read a short excerpt from her new book, Chasing the Flame, but she spent most of the hour beforehand giving us clear and thorough background information without aid of a single notecard.
There was a Q&A afterwards and naturally people asked plenty of asinine questions, all of which she answered with grace and humor. One guy asked, "If Obama is elected, how long do you think it will be before there's an attempt made on his life?" There was a general hmmph of disdain from the rest of the theater as Ms. Power answered (paraphrasing here), "The concise answer to that is, I don't know."
As for the Pulitzer, she very candidly told one audience member that she believes the reason she won is that the judges probably felt like they were "doing something" positive just by giving the award and thus raising people's awareness that genocide is still happening. A Problem from Hell was rejected by something like twenty-two publishers.
I have a copy of A Problem from Hell, but I probably wouldn't have asked her to sign it even if I had brought it with me. Whenever I meet an author, even if it's an author I haven't read yet (and thus, haven't had the chance to become speechless with awe over), I always manage to say something stupid. (This goes for musicians, too, which is part of why I didn't stick around after the Elbow show even though I'd brought one of their CDs with me.) I've gotten to the point where I'd rather just avoid any opportunity to put my foot in my mouth.
Galway is a great city for festivals in general--the Arts festival program is being launched tonight. Loads of plays, concerts, and art the last two weeks of July!