The end is near. I’ll shut up and do something else soon, I promise. First, though, it’s time to switch the order around a bit and plug a children’s event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival before the adults’ ones.
Now, that’s what I call a mission statement. Matt Haig is the writer of The Humans — which I’ve just started after succumbing to his relentless yet amusing promotion campaign on Twitter — a novel about alienation (possibly literally) and the simple joys and trials of human existence. It’s pretty funny, arresting and promising so far.
He’s also written a Young Adult book that was released in March, Echo Boy. He’s doing an event on Thursday afternoon with Marcus Sedgwick, who has written a whole raft of YA books (including a Doctor Who book, which impresses me more than it would most people) and his latest She is Not Invisible. Here’s an extract from the Guardian review of it:
There is a certain kind of young adult novel that is very hard to categorise. JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is one example; Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night‑Time and RJ Palacio’s Wonder are others. They are first-person stories told by extraordinary characters who stand outside the norms of mainstream society and prompt deep reflections upon it. She Is Not Invisible belongs to this tradition.
Better catch up on that, then; yet another title for the To Read pile.
Back in the main programme on Thursday 21st it’s surprising that Lynn Barber hasn’t sold out yet, especially as the event is chaired by Kate Mosse. Barber is an interviewer par excellence and perhaps she hasn’t the profile she used to, but in her heyday her articles were must-reads. Her new book, A Curious Career, carries on from her autobiography about her early life An Education, which was made into a film starring Carey Mulligan a few years back. She’s had an eventful life and it should make for a revealing event.
There’s an awful lot this year, unsurprisingly, on the Scottish independence referendum. One of the more outspoken and entertaining writers in the Yes movement is Alan Bissett, the author of several cracking books including Boyracers and The Incredible Adam Spark, which show what life in provincial Scotland for young people is really like, well away from the Trainspotting clichés. Along with Birlinn’s Hugh Andrew — the man I’d argue was largely responsible for Alexander McCall Smith’s swift rise to success — Sarah Prosser and Lesley Riddoch he’ll be talking about what the referendum’s outcome, aye or naw, will mean for writers in Scotland. That’s a huge subject to cram into an hour, so it should be a spirited and lively discussion.
Friday the 22nd is just packed with good stuff, some of it clashing horribly. Given my love of comics was kick-started largely by a teenage devouring of 2000AD collections, almost all of them written by Pat Mills, it would be remiss to mention the reading workshop he has today on war comics, but there’s another, bigger event he’s involved with on Saturday so I’ll save him for later.
As we’ve noted before, there’s been quite a bleed between Fringe and Book festivals recently, and a man who typifies such cross-boundary experimentation is Dave Gorman. Having moved from stand-up to writing themed shows that made great, bestselling books (and seen everyone follow him), he’s now taking a look at how there’s Too Much Information. Someone recently said that we all judge our own success by the highlights of others’ lives and find ourselves wanting, so what does the constant bombardment of information do to us?
Francesca Martinez is another stand-up who stands out, having become a Fringe regular after her career in Grange Hill, and her book What the **** is Normal explores how her “wobbliness” (her personal rebranding of cerebral palsy) has shaped her perception of how the world deals with difference. She’s joined by Mark Thomas, fresh from completing his 100 Minor Acts of Dissent and throwing himself into a Fringe show at the Traverse called Cuckooed. For a certain generation Thomas was a folk hero for his work exposing the daftness and hypocrisy of government policy. I’ll never forget his brilliant show on the pathetically lax security around nuclear fuel from 1999. If you have half an hour spare, it’s right here.
Whatever happened to Channel 4?
Sadly, though, here’s the big scheduling clash of the festival. At the same time Gruff Rhys, lead singer of the wonderful Super Furry Animals. he’s here to promote American Interior, a book he wrote about his project retracing the journey of a Welsh emigrant to the US. “Along the way he wonders how far myth-making will inspire humans to take on crazy projects”. He’d get on well with Dave Gorman, then.