JANE SMILEY reads this afternoon (3pm), on the opening day of the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Dubbed "the Balzac of the American Midwest", Smiley is best known for her gripping Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Thousand Acres. This ingeniously restages King Lear on a modern Iowa farm (complete with gory blinding scene) with the sisters squabbling over whether or not to expand the hog operation. She'll be discussing her mammoth new novel, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton. Set in the days before the Civil War, it follows a gawky abolitionist rampaging through Kansas in an effort to avenge the murder of her horse and the loss of her American dream.
Other events this weekend include talks on Victor Hugo, Pushkin, Coleridge, Walter de la Mare, William Blake, Robert Frost and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, plus readings from Julian Barnes (above), Lisa St Aubin de Teran and Patrick McCabe.
Cheltenham Festival of Literature, Town Hall, Cheltenham (01242 2279790) to 18 Oct