|Image: British Council|
It’s good to be back. Walking up to Charlotte Square yesterday morning, I felt like I was on some sort of pilgrimage. I felt like I was returning to a happy place, a place where I feel at home among many like-minded people, and where I can sit and read, write and listen without fear of non-creative energies getting in my way. It’s great to be back at the Edinburgh Book Festival.
I made it to the centre of Edinburgh early doors and after doing a small spot of shopping, I bought a paper and went to kill some time in a coffee shop. Before long, it was time to make the walk round to Charlotte Square; the excitement was palpable as I approached the white tents in the Square.
The first day problems were self evident (as they are most years): the intrigued and the curious were packing the place out to see what it was all about, which made it impossible to find a clear place to stop, whether in the book shop or just to absorb the venue. The square was mobbed and not just with tourists or bookies, but with the Press also, and there seemed to be a lot of first time visitors who hadn’t a clue where they were going and catching this year’s intake of staff off guard. It was somewhat chaotic but let me tell you, what an atmosphere.
My first event with Philip Pullman was uncharacteristically late by 15 minutes. Nick Barley, the new book festival director, introduced the guests—Philip Pullman and the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries—as well the Chair, the brilliant Richard Holloway. While the focal point of the discussion was about Pullman’s new book, THE GOOD MAN JESUS AND THE SCOUNDREL CHRIST, things deviated somewhat into some rather serious, but at times humorous commentary, on theology, the Bible and all things Testamentary. It made for some fascinating people watching with such a mixed crowd, one man getting himself into such a state of apoplexy he looked like he may have to be carted out before the lady behind him died of embarrassment.
It was all good stuff, though, and throughout it I was forced to re-examine how I view the Church and God and all that kind of thing. I have my own opinions but for an hour at least, I was challenged by three top thinkers of widely differing opinion on the subject, into at least double checking myself and running the arguments through my mind. Religion remains something that doesn’t work for me, but for slightly different reasons now that before the the event.
It was a great way to kick off the festival but I had to leave as soon as it was over in order to get a few more purchase for events next week. Then I headed home for the afternoon to take care of some house chores—got to get the boring stuff out of the way first—then got down to the meat of things in the form of my notebook and a novel.
I also ordered a new even for later today since I’ve a gap between two events in the evening: ex-New York literary agent/heroin addict, Bill Clegg, in conversation with Andrew O’Hagan, discussing his life and book, PORTRAIT OF AN ADDICT AS A YOUNG MAN: A MEMOIR.
After dinner it was back up to Charlotte Square, this time for an evening with Allan Brown in discussionn with Peter Guttridge about the inside story of the ultimate Scottish cult movie, The Wicker Man. First published in 2000, Inside The Wicker Man became something of a cult book—just like the film—and last night Allan convinced us why it has been republished and why it really is such a unique film.
One thing he said that really stood out for me, is that “cult films have something that no other film does: hysteria, a form of hysteria that takes the believable and turns it into the unbelievable without us noticing. They touch something in the psyche that has remain untouched for hundreds of years, which is why it can never be repeated.”
Onto today then and I’ve a packaged day
Should be a whole lot of fun!