If 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