So you want to be a litfest insider?
If I were the organizer of a competing literature festival, I would have by now hired a content agency or a brilliant college dropout to host my equivalent of @JLFInsider—the anonymous Twitter handle that had everyone in and outside the Jaipur Literature Festival in its thrall over the last week. With observations ranging from sartorial commentary (It’s hard to get over “Oh no, my cravat!”) to scathing criticism of “manels” and the quality of moderation, it is the next big thing after Fake IPL Player. I foresee a book deal soon, at least one by a digital publishing company.
Many conspiracy theories about its multiple handlers abound—we have our own in the office—but while @JLFInsider could say what it wanted and act like it wanted with the digital veil of anonymity, you might want some real-world pointers to being an insider, if you care to be one.
With our combined experience of attending literature festivals of all kinds over the years, we put together a guide for you. You can thank us by sending us your own theories about @JLFInsider.
1. In a crowded festival, there’s usually a small square feet area where the internet network is strong and reliable enough to post your 5 MB photograph or video. Identify it on Day 1 to avoid heartbreak later. Have you seen that the festival organizer tends to be glued to the same spot? Go to that spot.
2. Phones die. The internet is unreliable. People fail you. Always carry your own printout of the schedule.
3. This is applicable during the evening parties—or the new thing, the breakfast salons. Avoid telling authors you haven’t read all their books. There’s no need to draw attention to the fact. Most writers like to believe that everyone has read everything they have ever written, including blog posts from the 1990s. You might not be insincere —you might have read a majority of their published books—but that specific disclaimer is unnecessary. It upsets authors, especially male authors.
4. Do not try to engage your favourite writers in conversation, especially if you’re not entirely sober. Just this year at Jaipur, our books editor confesses to having a pathetic blubbering moment of incoherence trying to tell Helen Fielding how much he loves her Bridget Jones books.
5. Be aware of artistic rivalries. A standout Jaipur anecdote for me is from the Penguin Random House party at Taj Rambagh Palace in 2014. In conversation with Geoff Dyer and William Sutcliffe on star-crossed lovers, I brought up the half-chapter on love and physics from Julian Barnes’ A History Of The World In 10K Chapters. Perhaps it was the combined effect of me proposing to recite this chapter verbatim and confessing that I had abandoned Dyer’s book half-way and never read Sutcliffe... but it led to a most unpleasant turn of events.
6.Few authors—no matter what their views on the right to privacy—will say no to a request for a photograph. So ask if you must, but do be quick about it. Small sacrifices on good lighting and perfect framing will go a long way.
7. Most important, choose your sessions carefully. A great writer might not make a good moderator. Speakers can be swapped at the last minute so recheck the day’s schedule at the venue, because the crowd may not let you move on to the next session, should you change your mind.
8. Also, from our books editor, eat and drink sensibly so you may never have to use the loo on site—the queues are as long as the ones to enter the venue. Plus you might run into an author you idolize fixing their hair or doing something human and ordinary. This might upset you.
The writer tweets at @aninditaghose