ELLE at JLF: Best of the Fest, Day 2


ELLE at JLF: Best of the Fest, Day 2

A cold, damp day livened up by a talk on insects

By Deepa Menon  January 23rd, 2015

The most exciting thing on cold, rainy Day 2 was a PowerPoint presentation on bees. No, seriously. One of the nicest things about the Jaipur Literature Festival is it lights your curiosity on the most random of subjects. I didn’t know I wanted to hear a professorial talk on bees till I heard Dave Goulson speak. Thanks to this scientist and bumblebee expert, I can impress friends and acquaintances with did-you-know facts like these:
1. The first ever bee was a wasp who turned vegetarian.
2. A bumblebee’s wings flap 200 times a second.
3. Heavy farming has killed off so many bees in China that, in some places, people have to hand-pollinate each flower.
4. We’re living in the middle of a bee armageddon. If all the bees died, all wildlife and most vegetables and fruits would follow. 
5. Bee armageddon is my new favorite thing to say in a British accent.

Other highlights

This exchange (paraphrased wildly) between Hanif Kureishi and Paul Theroux during a session called Adaptations on book-to-film transitions.

Paul Theroux: Unlike with a script, I’ve never had to make any changes to a book unless I wanted to. Once someone told me I should take out a whole chapter at the beginning and I refused.

Hanif Kureishi (dead-pan): Maybe you should have listened, Paul. Many books can be improved by deleting whole chapters.

Paul Theroux: Maybe other books can, but not any of mine.

This scene from the life of Marie Antoinette narrated by Jonathan Beckman, author of How To Ruin A Queen, explaining the rigid protocols of 18th century French society that drove her to withdraw from public life.

“Marie Antoinette stood naked and shivering in her chambers as three noblewomen argued over who would hand her the chemise.”

Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year, on why she resisted writing the book.

“I didn’t want to revisit my 20s. It’s hard to go from being coddled and having people deeply appreciate your essays on George Bernard Shaw to joining the work force and realising that absolutely no one cares what you think.”

The Zee Jaipur Literature Festival is on till 25 January, 2015