The Manchester Literature Festival Blog
Review: The Real Story with Horatio Clare
‘True stories, well told.’ Festival blogger Melissa Brakel headed to International Anthony Burgess Foundation to hear memoirist and travel writer Horatio Clare and the essayists of The Real Story.
‘These stories could just as easily be fiction as non-fiction.’ So says the person in the row behind me. Having the quality of fiction is in part what makes creative nonfiction unique: they are true stories, well told. Much of it shares aspirations with fiction – to tell a story so well it conveys a sense of reality even to people who were not there.
Tonight we are in the Engine Room of the Anthony Burgess Foundation for a celebration of exactly that — here, as Kate Feld, co-organizer of The Real Story puts it, for a raucous celebration. Alongside a display of fantastic essays—the kind which makes The Real Story ‘dorkishly excited’ about non-fiction—tonight is also the penultimate night of a remarkable 16 days of Festival, so there is cause to be raucous.
Despite this, the atmosphere of the evening was ‘wonderfully priestly’, as Horatio Clare was later to put it. The lights are dim and people talk in tiptoe tones over glasses of wine. Before the show begins, the person to my left reads The Lonely City by Olivia Laing—who was here just last week—and the one to my right is absorbed in her own book.
Kicking off the evening are three ‘support-essayists’: Nija Dalal-Small and Adam Farrer—both co-organizers of The Real Story alongside Feld—and writer Sophie Parkes (pictured). Dalal-Small’s voice perfectly fits the delicate atmosphere of the evening and Farrer’s essay has the crowd in naughty sniggers as he reads the story of the night he met his stalker (in front of an 8-foot projected picture of his own groin).
The second half of the evening is dedicated to Horatio Clare, best-selling author of two memoirs and other acclaimed fiction, who reads three short pieces in front of a beautiful image of shipping container routes of the world. One of his extracts is based on a second trip he made on a container, since on his first journey ‘everything went right’, which as he explains, doesn’t always make for good travel writing.
The readings were diverse, and full of drama and humour. For those who haven’t had enough, The Real Story can be found regularly at Gulliver’s in the Northern Quarter. As for MLF, it’s been a blast and I can’t wait for next year.
Melissa Brakel is starting to write fiction. You can follow her on Twitter @tworamona.