Festival Books

performance. ‘It’s magical realist storytelling. It’s funny and poignant and it’s got something to say about love and loneliness,’ he says of the novella Coelacanth which he will be acting out during the one-hour event. Centring on ‘the sport of tree

climbing’, it’s named after a prehistoric species of fish, once presumed to be extinct, but almost fished to its demise when rediscovered in the 1930s. ‘It’s a beautiful metaphor,’ Moor says. ‘The lead character finds something in himself that he thought was extinct. Adapting my shows into the written word was a challenging but satisfying process, and it really came good in the end.’ More Trees to Climb also has an introduction written by fellow comedian Stewart Lee, whom Moor has known for more than 20 years. ‘He’s written a very touching tribute basically saying what a big nerd I am,’ he laughs, adding that he intends to see Lee perform this year but will take as much pleasure from being in Charlotte Square Gardens. ‘It’s an island of tranquillity and a lovely place to sit down.’ (Emma Newlands) 17 Aug, 5pm, £9 (£7).

DAVID BAINBRIDGE Debunking the myths surrounding teenagers

Vilified, hated, dismissed, feared and ridiculed, with a reputation blackened beyond damage limitation by even the deftest of spin doctors. Teenagers may be the least fashionable or genial of causes to champion, but that is exactly what David Bainbridge wanted to do when he embarked upon Teenagers: A Natural History. ‘I decided to write about teenagers because my previous three books about reproduction, sexuality and the brain had made me realise that adolescence is the one amazing time when all of the major themes of our lives collide.’ However, Bainbridge doesn’t believe

that the perception of teenagers has

changed quite so dramatically as many people think. ‘I certainly don’t believe all this “teenagers-were- invented-in-the-50s stuff”. Not only does their treatment in literature show that they’ve always been considered a thing apart, a bit edgy, there is now just so much biological and psychological evidence which shows that adolescence is a distinct, well- defined life-stage in its own right. Everything is more vivid than when you’re an adult, be that love, sadness, idealism or violence.’ Bainbridge’s research fascinated him so much that he felt he had to get the results out into the public realm. ‘What it tells us is that the adolescent years, far from being a scourge or even just a nondescript transition between childhood and adulthood are, in fact, the most important years of human life, from a biological, cultural, psychological and evolutionary point of view. My big message is let’s all start being a lot more positive about teenagers.’ (Kate Gould) 19 Aug (with Sue Palmer), 2pm, £9 (£7); 19 Aug (The End of Childhood), 7pm, £9 (£7).

DAVID AARONOVITCH How paranoid ideas shaped modern history

It’s easy to assume that conspiracy theorists are odd, simple, lonely blokes who still live with their parents and spend far too much time on the internet. But in truth, they’re usually otherwise normal, intelligent and rational people. Author, broadcaster and journalist David Aaronovitch found that out when his bright and perfectly commonsensical mate Kevin casually dropped into conversation one day that he believed in the ludicrous-yet- popular theory that the 1969 moon landing was faked by NASA, an undertaking that would have probably proven more difficult to execute than the real thing. ‘I was completely non-plussed,’ says

Aaronovitch. ‘It got me thinking about the entire business of what I guess you could call “why otherwise clever people believe un-clever things”.’ Voodoo Histories is the result, Aaronovitch’s detailed look at the role of conspiracy theory in shaping modern history. It compares, contrasts and debunks many mumbo-jumbo

TARIQ ALI Merging a passion for politics with love of literature

Protocols of the Elders of Sodom was published recently, and reads like a ‘best of’ of Tariq Ali’s musings on a few giants of world literature. Taken from articles and essays written over the past 30 years for Time Out and The Guardian among others, the historian, filmmaker and novelist extends his usual non-mincer-of-words approach to writers including Tolstoy, Proust, Cervantes and Solzhenitsyn. And just because Salman Rushdie spent years under police surveillance after that fatwa was put on his head, that doesn’t exclude him from a dressing down from Ali. ‘Even Salman Rushdie must realise that The Ground Beneath Her Feet is an excremental work,’ comments Ali who is, incidentally, otherwise quite a big Rushdie fan. Fusing his love of politics with his passion for literature, and still leaving room for controversy on world religions too, Ali’s fastidiously researched essays make for a stodgy, wide-reaching, warm and provocative read. His Festival appearance will allow him to discuss topics touched on in the book, which include Pakistani government corruption, writers of the Raj (Rudyard Kipling is a favourite of Ali’s) and his own experiences as a ‘red diaper baby’ (which, he explains, is a US term for a child raised in a Communist household in a non-Communist country.)

There are unexpected links too; in his notes on Jean-Paul Sartre, Ali casually drops in the fact that Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir sent a telegram of protest when he was placed under country arrest by the Pakistani government during the 1970s. With true stories like that, who needs fiction? (Claire Sawers) 16 Aug, 3pm, £9 (£7).

ideas about recent historical events ranging from American intervention in WWII to the assassination of JFK and the attacks of 9/11 while examining what shapes them, most often some combination of honest skepticism, political disenfranchisement, fear of a disorganised universe and desire for a better historical narrative. Aaronovitch also wants to arm

readers against the pub bore. ‘I want people to be able to deal with someone turning round to them, most likely in the pub, and saying, “Oh, do you know the real reason that X happened?” Instinct tells you it’s wrong, but you don’t have the facts at your fingertips. I had the ignoble ambition of turning the tables on such people.’ (Malcolm Jack) 20 Aug, noon, £9 (£7).


Unless they’ve had some unfortunate encounter with the animal kingdom in their early years, just about every kid loves a creature. And in the first few days of this year’s Book Festival, there’s no stopping our scaly, furry and slimy friends. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (15 & 16 Aug) slinks into view on a number of occasions to mark 40 years since Eric Carle came up with his mesmerising book, while Sharon Tregenza introduces us to some Exotic Creatures (15 Aug) in an event supported by good old Edinburgh Zoo.

Festival regular Julie Dawson looks at the many sources of Farmyard Fun (16 Aug) in kids’ tales while it’s literally Raining Cats and Dogs! (17 Aug) thanks to Emma Dodd’s creations, Dot and Dash. As if we didn’t know, Giraffes Can’t Dance (17 Aug) while it will be rather hard to resist an event with this title: The Great Dog Bottom Swap (18 Aug). (Brian Donaldson) See for full details of events.