It has been a crazy but magnificent few days both at the Edinburgh Book Festival and on the gigging front, I don’t quite know how to begin. When I last had the time to sit down and write a blog entry it was Thursday morning and I was about to head through to Glasgow for a Limp Bizkit gig, which was a hell of a night out!
I met up with my mum and dad in Glasgow for some coffee and muffins, the weather being so nice we sat out under the sun in Royal Exchange Square. My sister also joined us, before we all went our separate ways: mum and dad shopping, my sister and I to the pub. We chose the Clockwork Orange on Cathcart Road, where we annoyed the many Celtic fans who came in to watch the football. We were already half gone by the time they wanted to watch the game, but we had made the pub our own by that time, so nae luck lads.
Limp Bizkit in the Glasgow O2 Academy was an amazing night. It was wild, loud and fizzing with energy, everything I hoped it would be and more. Say what you want about these guys but on stage they are a phenomenal prospect, Wes Borland in particular stealing the show in his wizard’s hat and black leather and painted torso. Fred Durst was his usual “badly in need of anger management class” self, when at one point he launched into the crowd to sing. Some twat grabbed his nuts but probably didn’t count on Durst leathering him with a few deft punches to the face for his trouble.
It was an awesome gig with all the tracks I wanted to hear being played: My Way, Nookie, My Generation, Break Stuff, Take A Look Around and Rollin’. How it should be done.
The next day was a day of nothing. I stayed at my sister’s, we went out for lunch, stayed in for dinner, watched some television and basically chilled out until the hangovers were gone. Saturday, though, was a different kettle of fish altogether.
With my gear on—a Bonnie Prince Charlie dress kilt of McCallum tartan—we headed to a small church in Restalrig to see a couple of friends get married. It was a short and romantic ceremony (the two pints in the Bird In The Hand pub down the road saw to that) and then it was off the Hilton in Edinburgh’s west end for the reception.
They plied us with champagne from the get-go. That, mixed in with copious amounts of other drinks like lager, red wine, more champagne, vodka and whisky, meant the night ended up a bit messy. There was lots of laughter, camp frolics, dancing—disco and ceilidh—and unfortunately, jagerbombs also making a small and unwelcome appearance. It was with no small amazement then, that I was able to get myself up and out of bed the following morning to get my ass up to Charlotte Square for an unmissable event.
Joyce Carol Oates is a giant of American literature and it was a complete honour to be able to sit and listen to her speak. She spoke about her life in writing, her influences and her friends, and she did so with an air of brilliant modesty. She was incredibly witty and intelligent and everyone who was there I think knew how lucky they were. I even managed to bag a picture of her in the signing tent afterwards, which you can see in the slideshow I’ll put together for when I review the book festival a a whole tomorrow.
While I was in the signing tent I also stopped for a drink with my sister who had arrived, when an interesting tweet arrived into my phone. It was @edbookfest asking if I would be up for an AudioBoo interview. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity and a few moments later I was being whisked off by Colin Fraser to find a quiet place to be interviewed. The broadcast tent was closed off so much to my absolute delight, I was taken behind the scenes and past the press tent. This meant walking past the famous yurt, the author’s tent, and I gazed longingly inside at the magic I’d often heard and read about. One day, Colin, one day…
The interview wasn’t an interview. Colin explained he would give me four minutes to talk about the book festival and that he would record my thoughts. Four minutes, I already knew, would be a long time. I would have to think fast (I was already forgetting all the events I’d been to) and have to speak with character. Bearing in mind I also had a hangover from the previous day’s wedding, I knew it would prove to be test of my oratory skills.
I started to talk. Half way through Colin realised the timer wasn’t running but other than that I completed the full 4 minutes in one go. He asked me to plug my website but I think that due to a small overrun it had to be expertly edited into the start of the interview. It was an amazing opportunity and a huge thanks go out to Colin for asking me to do it and being so relaxed about it. If you want to hear the resulting audio, visit this link: http://bit.ly/cQG077 or press play below.
Later in the day I went to the joint Katharine Hibbert and Sheena Iyangor event with my sister, Lindsay. Neither of us were truly convinced about the motivations or extent to which Hibbert had gone to in her test of living for free, although kudos to her for having the guts to do so. Iyangor was more interesting to me, discussing choice and how we, as humans, live our lives based on the choices we make.
With a few hours to spare between book festival events and our main evening appointment, my sister and I found ourselves in Au Bar in the west end. We had a few drinks and some food before heading into the Picture House to see Modest Mouse a band I’d wanted to see for a wee while now. It was a good gig (I was disappointed they never performed Doin’ The Cockroach) but both of us were so tired after our Saturday exploits it was a rather mute affair. I was glad to get home and to bed by the end of the night.
That takes me to yesterday and the final day of the book festival. With this in mind, I decided to immerse myself in it 100% so as to take as much as I could from the last few events. I wanted to go out with a bang and as such, picked as varied a schedule as I could.
Regretfully I missed the ‘Ten at Ten’ due to traffic problems. I’d convinced myself it was only a free event and therefore I wouldn’t have missed much, but when I arrived I discovered it was Ryan van Winkle and would have loved to have heard him read.
So my first event of the day was with Louise Welsh in the Spiegeltent. We were provided with free coffee for the event, which was also being filmed, and which saw Louise reading her contribution to the “Elsewhere” book festival theme, a short story called Vanishing Point.
I went from there straight into see Don Paterson in the main tent, which was an hour of humorous and gripping poetry. “I’ve got nothing to read to you all,” he said. “It’s all about death and divorce.” But it was a privilege to hear him read from a variety of sources, during which, he was intensely funny one moment then heart stopping the next. When he said his “back and genitals were the main case against intelligent design” I couldn’t hold back from raucous laughter. Simply awesome.
I had a couple of hours to spare and filled them with coffee and a chat with a friend before heading off for some lunch in my usual coffee shop alone. My pal had to get back to work but I was happy to be able to get some respite from a busy morning and catch up on some reading over my coffee and Panini.
Back to Charlotte Square for 3pm and in to see Antonia Fraser in conversation with Ian Rankin. Fraser spoke candidly and warmly about her life with Harold Pinter, telling us of the night his true philosophy came to the fold was when he appeared on Newsnight with Kirsty Wark. “Life is beautiful but the world is hell,” he had said.
Fraser still enjoys going to see his plays, and as the executor of his literary estate she has some responsibility still in that area, and of his Nobel Prize speech, she said: “will resonate forever.” No wonder the biggest applause from the audience came from an elderly man in the front row with the best haircut in the tent: Mr Vidal Sassoon.
I met up with another friend afterwards, the lovely @lisadempster from Melbourne, Australia, who also runs the @EmergingWriters festival there. We compared notes about the different festivals we’d had and who we’d seen, before we realised both our next events were on in the same, the ‘Writing Into The Future’ event with local graduate authors from creative writing courses around Scotland.
I had time to grab another coffee before my next event, short story writers Kevin Barry and Simon van Booy, both of which blew me away with their short fiction readings. This is how the short form should work; an audience should be captivated, drawn in and entertained in all directions—they were superb and I will be buying both of their work shortly.
A big fan of theirs, @RobAroundBooks was also there and he recognised me from my book fest AudioBoo picture. It was great to meet him, also because he is a voracious and passionate reader and runs an excellent website of all things literary which you should all go and check out. (www.robaroundbooks.com)
Finally, and after yet another coffee and long read of my book, it was into my final event, which for the 3rd year running was in the Scottish Power tent. The authors I had chosen to see (booked before the sad passing of Edwin Morgan and subsequent organisation of his celebration event) was Scottish author Donald S Murray and novelist, Will Self.
The topic concerned the island of St. Kilda, one of the most remote islands in Scotland, and of each man’s love for the place. Murray’s passion came through in the form of poetry and prose, his readings of which ran on at length into Will Self’s time. Worth it, though.
Self revealed that the location used in his book, The Book of Dave, is based on St. Kilda, which is something that has been largely missed be almost every reviewer and critic of the novel since it was published in 2006.
With that final event over I took one slow walk around the square for one last time. I popped into the book shop on my round and bought my final two books for this festival: Portrait Of An Addict As A Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg and Glasgow Zen by Alan Spence, a poet I’ve grown more fond of as the festival has run, since I saw him on the second day ‘Ten at Ten’. One final look back at the square and then I was off, out into the darkness of Edinburgh and the promise of another full year of charged, motivated and enhanced writing to come.
This post is already long enough so I’ll call it a day there. Tomorrow, I’ll review the Edinburgh Book Festival I had, the highs and lows and what I have taken from it. I’ll also be publishing my GDR for 2010/11, a document I’ve been thinking about and developing a lot over the last two weeks in the delight that is Charlotte Square in August.
Until then—peace, out!