Charleston Festival - Jane Smiley/Simon Schama

After 9/11, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jane Smiley, busy on her twelfth novel Good Faith, suddenly got a terrible case of writer’s block. In order to regain the will to write that had previously been the essence of her existence, she decided to return to her initial source of inspiration: reading. So she spent three years devouring over one hundred works of fiction spanning a period of 1,000 years, from The Tale of Genji to White Teeth, through Don Quixote, Dracula and Lolita. Then she set about writing 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, at once a personal memoir, a guide to readers, an aid to aspiring writers, and interpretations of the 101 books she chose to read in that period. Today she talks about the experience of writing the book, and her life-long love affair with the novel.

In the evening Simon Schama, most famous for his 14-part TV series A History of Britain, and author of such works as Rembrandt’s Eyes, Rough Crossings and Hang-ups, talks to Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Gallery, about his latest book The Power of Art. In the book Schama blends his two loves by looking at the history of culture. He will talk about what he learnt while researching the book, as well as his wide-ranging cultural and social interests. The Power of Art is to be published this autumn.

Schama chameleon - The Columbia professor’s as happy
writing about history or art
Charleston Farmhouse, near Firle
When? Smiley 5pm, Schama 7.30pm
How Much? Each session £9
(t) (01323) 811265
(w) Website