From the 12th – 28th August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens once more becomes the place for book lovers to meet, greet, and be merry as this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival takes up its annual residence. It’s an oasis of calm and conversation in a city gone daft, and it is one of SWH!’s favourite places to be. With that and much more in mind, and to help you find something just for you, here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks of what to see at this year’s book festival.
We have tried to avoid the already sold-out and high-profile to give you an alternative and achievable schedule.
FICTION’S MASTER CRAFTSMAN: James Kelman
– Fri 18 Aug 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Having said we have tried to avoid big names, the first pick is one of Scottish literature’s living legends. James Kelman is in town to talk primarily about his latest collection of short stories That Was A Shiver, and Other Stories. There is a body of thought, to which I belong, which believes that while Kelman is one of our great novelists he is an even better short story writer – a master of the art. It is a form which suits not only his style but also the content. What is unarguable is that this is a rare chance to listen to a true artist read and discuss his work. Astonishingly tickets still available at the time of writing, but I would get in there quickly to avoid disappointment.
IN PRAISE OF NASTY WOMEN: Nadine Aisha Jassat, Joelle Owusu & Laura Waddell
– Sat 19 Aug 4:30pm – 5:30pm
If you don’t know about 404 Ink’s Nasty Women then I’m going to presume prison or coma, and either way I’m glad you’re back with us. It’s possibly the most talked about book of the year and remains one of the most important. Three of the contributing essayists appear at Charlotte Square to discuss the book, their part in it, and no doubt the reception it has received.
You can listen to the audio version of the SWH! review of Nasty Women below:
POST-PUNK’S NOT DEAD: David Keenan & David F Ross
– Sat 19 Aug 8:30pm – 9:30pm
This meeting of the two Davids promises to be one of the most entertaining and interesting events of this year’s festival as they talk about the relationship between music, memory and place. David Keenan’s paean to post-punk and Airdrie, This Is Memorial Device, is one of the books of the year, and you can read the SWH! review as well as listening to the man himself talk about it on the podcast:
David F. Ross completed his Ayrshire based ‘Disco Days’ trilogy (following The Last Days Of Disco & The Rise And Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas) with the best of the three novels, The Man Who Loved Islands, the SWH! review of which you can still read, and David was another guest on the podcast last year (listen below):
If you’ve ever been in, near or just loved a band then this event is for you.
FACING DOWN THE MAFIA: John Gordon Sinclair
– Sat 19 Aug 7:15pm – 8:15pm
While to many he will be forever a teenage Gregory looking for his girl (although, to SWH!, also Frank McClusky in Your Cheatin’ Heart) John Gordon Sinclair has been building a career as a writer of crime fiction. His latest novel is Walk In Silence, which again features the memorable character of lawyer Kiera Lynch, will be the main topic under discussion but to get an idea of what his writing is like you can read the SWH! review of his previous novel, Blood Whispers, here.
UP IN ARMS: Laura Hird and Gordon Pentland
– Tue 22 Aug 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Laura Hird and Gordon Pentland are among the 15 fiction writers and 15 historians who have collaborated on Protest: Stories of Resistance to produce new narratives about key moments of British protest. The Radical War of 1820 and the march from Glasgow to Falkirk to take the Carron ironworks, plus the fate of Andrew Hardie, John Baird and the little-known character Andrew White are all featured. It’s a rare opportunity to hear Laura Hird, one of the lesser known writers of the ‘Chemical generation’ who also included Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh and Gordon Legge. You can read the Indelible Ink review of Laura’s brilliant Born Free here.
INCREDIBLE STRING BANDS: Andrew Greig & Mike Heron
– Fri 18 Aug 7:15pm – 8:15pm
Another recent SWH! podcast guest (which you can hear below), writer and musician Andrew Greig is appearing with Mike Heron, one of the founding member of the Incredible String Band. They have become one of the most influential bands of the current folk music scene. The band were born when Heron was training to be an accountant. When he first heard them, Andrew Greig immediately formed a band in their image. You Know What You Could Be, a dual memoir – of a band hitting the big time and of an inspired teenage fan – should strike a chord with everyone:
CRIME ACROSS A COLD-BLOODED CONTINENT: Martin Holmén and Michael J Malone – Sun 13 Aug 8:30pm – 9:30pm
More crime in the Square as Swedish Martin Holmén and Scotland’s Michael J Malone meet up to talk about the continuing success and popularity of crime fiction, particularly in Northern Europe. The former’s Down for the Count is a no-holds barred Swedish thriller about a former boxer hell-bent on vengeance having just been released from jail, while the latter’s Dog Fight has been dubbed as Glasgow’s Fight Club, and you can hear the audio version of the SWH! review below. There’s plenty of crime fiction discussed at the festival, but this looks like being one of the more interesting:
FRAMING THE ARTS DEBATE: Alexander Moffat & Alan Riach
– Fri 25 Aug 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Influential artist and teacher Alexander Moffat’s paintings of poets and writers are an important part of modern Scottish culture; Saltire Society convener and poet Alan Riach is a similarly respected cultural commentator. Ideal collaborators therefore on Arts and the Nation, which will be out on paperback in September, and which argues passionately that the arts should be at the heart of an independent Scotland. It’s difficult to think of many better to present this argument and to lead the conversation.
EVERYTHING TO EXCESS: Ron Butlin & Preti Taneja
– Mon 21 Aug 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Ron Butlin is appearing at four separate events at the last count during this year’s festival, and each one will be worth attending. But if you can choose only one we suggest his joint appearance with Preti Taneja whose Indian set We That Are Young is described as a latter-day King Lear, “steeped in jealousy and rage”. Ron will be talking about his latest novel Billionaires’ Banquet, and you can read Ali’s review over at The Bottle Imp. Before you do, you might like to lay back and listen to Ron in conversation on the SWH! podcast:
MUSIC IN THE IMAGINATION: The Unthanks
– Fri 25 Aug 9:45pm – 10:45pm
Although the concentration is on books, there is always music in the air somewhere and one of the musical highlights this year will be the appearance of The Unthanks. Rachel and Becky Unthank, with producer and pianist Adrian McNally, have re-interpreted the little-known music and poems of Molly Drake, mother of posthumously-celebrated singer-songwriter Nick Drake. The Unthanks will discuss their project and the interplay between music and words. The album is Diversions Vol. 4 – The Songs And Poems Of Molly Drake and from it here is ‘How Wild The Wind Blows’:
See you in the Gardens…
You can still read Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks Of The Fringe.