The sun shone and the people came—that’s the picture to take from day 9, Sunday at the Edinburgh Book Festival. We sat around, we chatted, we bathed in the sun as it warmed our backs (and bald heads), and in between the myriad of networks of friends and colleagues in Charlotte Square, ideas, opinions and information was shared throughout. It was the book festival promoter’s dream.
Journalist Robert Levine came to his event at the Edinburgh Book Festival on the back of a provocative Observer article, and began by explaining the rationale behind his claim that, “the current model of internet commerce is unsustainable.”
Not dissimilar, I thought, to the original Ford Prefect of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, he began by explaining that fundamentally, “we tell ourselves stories in order to understand the world,” and that in this, his first book, Free Ride: How the Internet is Destroying the Culture Business, he attempts not to slam the old model, but to ask if the current one is at all sustainable.
While not a major critic of Shawn Fanning, who he insists “didn’t create Napster for money, but rather to develop a new way of distributing music,” he took issue with Fanning’s claims that his invention redefined music. “He didn’t,” said Levine. “What he really did was redefine the trucking industry.”
On Google, seen by many as a pretty good thing for the Internet, his opinion was less than glowing. “Google will not give you advice that is good for you or what you want, it will give you advice that is good for Google.”
Levine cited Bjork’s latest album that comes with an iPad app for every track. While this may well be “pointing the way for the future of the music album, it is not something that could have been done under Google’s Android operating system. It could only have been achieved under Apple’s model because it is closed.”
In summarising what was a very provocative hour of thinking and promotion of a new approach to internet commerce, Levine simply said: “I’m not defending legacy business, but we have a broken market that now makes it difficult to create something and then sell it.”
The Guardian Book Club with Neil Gaiman
I bagged myself a last minute ticket for this event thanks to the very kind and lovely staff in the Press Office, and boy was I glad to get a seat. John Mullan chaired this star-studded analysis of Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods, and I found myself sitting with Amanda Palmer behind me, Canongate publishers to the left of me, and Ian Rankin and Frank Skinner to the right of me.
As for the event, Gaiman is the master of selling while remaining everyone’s bet pal. “I like the way the people who have read this book are already ahead of the pack,” he explained, “but that you don’t quite know all that’s still to come,” referring to his new agreement with HBO to create a television series from the book.
He also revealed he will be writing the pilot episode for the new series, as well as the final episode and “very possibly one in the middle.” So for die-hard Gaiman fans it was already a memorable event—and there were more than a few of those in the audience, many from the U.S.A. it appeared.
Gaiman spoke at length of the process he went through to create American Gods, such as when the idea came for it, he had been letting it brew for some time but it hadn’t completely formed in his mind. “It was like this gooey black substance that hadn’t yet congealed in my brain,” he explained to his mesmerised fans. “It finally crystallised while I was on a layover in Iceland at about three in the morning. I wrote up a 3-page summary, slapped a temporary title on it—which was American Gods—and sent it to my agent and publisher. Three weeks later I got an email back with the design of the front cover of the book and the title right there so that was that.”
Following the event Gaiman entertained another very lengthy queue that wrapped itself around the innards of Charlotte Square. Always smiling, always joking, and always personal to all his fans, Gaiman is the ultimate example of how even the biggest stars can keep it real and down to earth. It’s no wonder his fans love him so much.
I spoke to Giulia Sandelewski who had travelled north from Stratford-upon-Avon without being able to get any accommodation, not caring about anything so long as she could get her book signed—which she did. She looked like her smile would be enough to carry her home!
I met up with my new writer chum (new, as in just met but long-time tweeters) for a few beers and a long chat in between events. We were both interviewed for a Guardian podcast, before we toddled off to squeeze into a spot in the sun where we could put the world to rights on a lot of issues surrounding writing and getting published. We have a lot in common as it turns out and so were able to connect and share a lot of very good information. An inspirational afternoon all but there was yet more to come!
A L Kennedy
Back into the RBS Main Tent and A L Kennedy appeared on stage a slight of her former self, confirming reports that she had indeed been very ill since the completion of her latest novel, The Blue Book – her first since the Costa winning novel, Day published in 2007.
Visibly not herself, she appeared rattled and offended after a woman in the audience left after only five minutes. Kennedy stopped her and asked if it was something she had done, to which the woman replied: “this wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“What were you expecting?” asked Kennedy, as the woman toddled off to the mutterings of a disgusted crowd, and leaving Kennedy unable to complete the first selected reading she had prepared.
She picked herself up, however, and before long was churning out jokes and sarcastic quips like the old days but even then these only came in patches. The main focus became political as she delved into the manipulation of the government, and it was a much quieter audience she held under her spell until Jamie Jauncey called an end to the event.
Following Kennedy I was straight out of Charlotte Square and up the road. I had forgotten to really eat anything during the day other than a half-empty roll, and with the lager on top of that and sun to my head I was starting to lag badly and need some rest.
I hopped a bus back to Leith, picked up a very healthy Black Pudding Supper and can of Coke, and headed home. Bed wasn’t long after.
My iIMac is still in the box.
Book Fest Media
Catch up on all my reviews and articles on my sister site, the Edinburgh Book Festival Blog
For visual enjoyment of the Edinburgh Book Festival, click over to my constantly updated photograph feed at flickr.com/colinthewriter
Ciao for now!