Day #2 of EdBookFest, and my first full day in Charlotte Square. and oh boy, what a day. If you ever needed any convincing that Edinburgh is place to be in August if you’re a book fan, then hopefully this diary entry will convince you.
Zoë and Ned
The day started off early for me with an event in the Spiegeltent, featuring debut novelists Ned Beauman and Zoë Strachan. Although I’ve never read either of their novels thus far, I was keen to go this event partly because I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about Beauman’s debut novel Boxer Beetle (Sceptre), and also because the novel is in the running for this year’s Newton First Book Award (an aspect of EdBookFest that I’m purposely choosing to focus on at RobAroundBooks this year). It was a great event, with both authors showing a great deal of passion, intelligence and humor both for their writing and for their books. I won’t bore you with all of the details now though, because I’ve posted a full report on that event, HERE.
Reading and soaking up the atmosphere
With the Ned Beauman and Zoë Strachan event finished it was time to catch up with a bit of writing, and a lot of reading. In preparation for the Alain Mabanckou and George Makana Clark event (Monday 15th, 15:30) I had to get shifting with my read through of Mabanckou’s latest novel Memoirs of a Porcupine (Serpent’s Tail). No problem with that though because it gave me an opportunity to soak up some of buzzing atmosphere around Charlotte Square, and some of the glorious sunshine that was starting to break over it.
You really have had to have visited to know about the atmosphere around Charlotte Square at EdBookFest time. Provided the weather is reasonable the centre of the square gets packed with people lounging around and enjoying their surroundings; some taking on refreshments, many others reading. And milling around the outside at all times are people, authors and journalists from almost every corner of the world. The place is electric from first thing in the morning (almost) to last thing at night.
While sitting and reading into the afternoon I spotted a Chinese TV crew and the presenter was very interested in EdBookFest’s wonderful literary-themed deckchairs (pic below). I also had a welcome interruption from my good writer friend Colin Galbraith. While chatting for a bit (he was in an all day writing event), who should brush past us (walking with supreme confidence may I add) but none other than British broadcaster, Caitlin Moran, heading for an event the Peppers Theatre. I also caught the occasional glimpse of a rather sauve-looking Hari Kunzru treading the boardwalks around the Square, more often than not, when I seen him at least, checking his phone for way more interesting messages than I’m ever likely to get.
In the presence of awesomeness
As the time rolled on I got closer and closer to one of the real highlight on this year’s EdBookFest for me – an event with one of the greatest living short story writers, Tobias Wolff. My excitement was really starting to build and I don’t know if I was going to contain it. Thankfully I’d asked my daughter to pop through for this particular event and her arrival brought me back down to earth a bit. We queued, in a long queue which stretched around half of the boardwalk, and eventually got seated. Suddenly the man walked in. His awesome presence was felt instantly. He read his story Say Yes, then chatted about short stories, his time at boarding school, Raymond Carver, Russian writers etc. The audience – and especially this member of it – was in awe. I’ll be writing up the Tobias Wolff in full as soon as, so I’ll stop wagging my tail about that for now.
After Tobias Wolff’s event it was time for a signing, and you can imagine I was pretty excited for it. Finally I was going to meet one of my literary idol; a true demi-god of short fiction. The queue was long and it took a while getting it down, but Tobias was patient and gracious the whole time, and I noticed that everyone left the signing table with a huge smile on their face.
My turn came to meet Tobias and I didn’t know whether to throw up, faint or go into a shaking frenzy. I held my composure though (almost), and told him how much of a positive effect his short stories had had on my life. I also told him that like him I adored Chekhov, and since I couldn’t meet that particular writer I thought that he was a worthy second best. He seemed humbled by that, and he shook my hand. When he did I felt his awesomeness shooting up my arm . What a connection, and it’s one I shall remember for the rest of my life.
Sarah and Gordon
Needing to calm down (a lot) I took my daughter for refreshments in the Spiegeltent and prepared for a last evening event with Mary Horlock and Paul Wilson. My daughter left and I headed back out onto the lawn for a bit more reading. While there I noticed a big entourage heading towards me. Realising it was Sarah Brown and her hubby Gordon, I rushed over to the boardwalk and grabbed a couple of pics of the famous pair (see below). I don’t think they minded at all but the burly bodyguard walking in front of them was giving me some real evils .
Mary Horlock/Paul Wilson
At seven I headed into my final EdBookFest event of the evening, an audience with Mary Horlock, author of debut novel The Book of Lies (Canongate Books) and Paul Wilson, the Lancashire-based author of The Visiting Angel (Tindal Street Press). This was another Newton First Book Award event (for Mary Horlock), hence my attendance. Having never read anything from either of these authors, I didn’t know what to expect.
After hearing both authors read I was blown away. Both books are very different, but both sound utterly compelling. I adored both of these writers too. Mary is gentile and quiet, and Paul highly theatrical with his Lancashire accent. I’ll be posting a full report on this event in due course, so keep an eye out for that.
OK, I’m a bit rushed so I’ll leave you with a few picture highlights from my Day #2 at EdBookFest. I hope you enjoy them (click to expand):