La Isla Bonita: A Review Of The Book Of Iona: An Anthology…*


DSC_0432If you didn’t know that Robert Crawford, the editor of The Book Of Iona: An Anthology, was one of the foremost academics in the field of Scottish writing you would soon guess. There is an academic rigour in evidence, married to what feels like a literary obsession, which is admirable and initially perhaps a little daunting. The writing includes poetry, prose, essays and other non-fiction, and stretches from the sixth century to the twenty-first, including works in Latin and Gaelic as well as Scots and English. In my ignorance, I believed an anthology of writing focusing on Iona would be a thin tome, but this is not only a comprehensive collection, but also eclectic and expansive. Crawford has not restricted himself and, as a good editor should, he has been brave and bold in his decisions.

A quick look at the contents pages offers up modern and contemporary writers such as Candia McWilliam, Edwin Morgan, Mick Imlah, David Kinloch, and Meg Bateman, as well as work from Crawford himself. It is in the present day writing that my own highlights from the anthology are to be found. Alice Thompson’s ‘Hologram’ is a slice of magical realism, which, like the anthology, is run through with religion, philosophy, and mysticism. Sara Lodge’s ‘The Grin Without A Cat’ is about obsession and art, and is such a sensual piece of writing as to be tangible. It is possibly the best short story I have read this year. Continue reading

Poetry, Prose & Parasols: A Review Of Umbrellas Of Edinburgh…

A good anthology is a wonderful thing, bringing together often diverse writers united under a theme or concept. I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading two very fine examples alongside one another, both of which use place as their subject, but the approach to the very different locations sets them apart and makes them interesting to compare.

One is The Book Of Iona, a collection edited by Professor Robert Crawford, which looks at the literary history as well as the geography of this iconic island, featuring writers as diverse as William Shakespeare, Sara Lodge, Edwin Morgan and Queen Victoria, and there will be a review of this in 2017.

The other is Umbrellas Of Edinburgh, and it concentrates on the there and now. The premise is simple, with various writers invited to “choose a location in Edinburgh and write about it.” What this allows is a wide range of voices and perspectives lending this book a variety which arguably gives the most complete and rounded depiction of this famous city to date. The more iconic landmarks and locations are present, but so are those places the tourists rarely tread. Continue reading