FESTIVAL BOOKS | Previews
TRACEY THORN Making the leap from musician to writer
For a long time, Tracey Thorn did not intend to release her memoir Bedsit Disco Queen. Since finishing the book in 2007, it languished in a box file while Thorn reignited her music career with a string of acclaimed solo albums. Writing the book had in fact made her realise she would rather spend her time making records again.
‘I think when I said that, I had no idea whether or not I’d written a good book,’ she says, ‘or one that would interest many people. I’ve been thrilled by the response to Bedsit Disco Queen and it’s definitely made me think I’d like to write another one.’ The book charts her life as a musician, first as a quarter of the Marine Girls, then as half of Everything But The Girl. She speaks frankly about the realities of working in the music industry, depicting the seductive highs, desolate lows and all the banalities and Spinal Tap moments in between.
Thorn has always tried to keep her public and personal lives separate, for the sake of her own sanity as much as anything else. Has she found it difficult opening up her past to public scrutiny?
‘No, it’s fine. Don’t forget, when you write a memoir, you, as the writer, are in full control, so you only reveal what you’re comfortable revealing. It’s a very different process to when journalists write about you.’
In fact, talking about her life in front of crowds has proved a lot less daunting for Thorn than performing music in front of them. ‘I find the book events really easy and enjoyable, I think because there’s no pressure to be anything other than yourself on stage. It’s not really a “performance” so I find it a lot more natural.’ (Ally Nicholl) ■ Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 18 Aug, 8pm, £10 (£8).
P O H S B D R A W D E
N O S L E H C T M E N N A R A M
JAMES KAKALIOS The science of superheroes
WILLIAM MCILVANNEY Modern technology for a classic crime writer JAMES ROBERTSON Remembering Lockerbie
‘Discussing superheroes and science is proof that we are living in the golden age of geekdom,’ says Professor James Kakalios. It’s in this golden age that Kakalios has made his career in physics, incorporating a string of classic superheroes into his lessons. And as his talk at Edinburgh International Book Festival will reveal, he’s not only the author of The Physics of Superheroes, but also a consultant to some of Hollywood’s greatest comic book adaptations (Watchmen, The Amazing Spider-Man).
William McIlvanney returns triumphant to this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. At the 2011 festival, they asked why his books were out of print. Two years on, Canongate’s edition of the Laidlaw trilogy is available to a new generation of readers. McIlvanney changed the Scottish literary landscape forever in 1977 when Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw trailed a killer through the streets of Glasgow, doling out his distinctly Scottish style of justice.
If one thing can be learned from Kakalios and his His upcoming event is not just about looking
work, it’s that he wants to make science accessible, and he finds that talking about Superman can give people a little more confidence in understanding the fundamentals. ‘If the adventures of these super- powered individuals can make it easier for some to learn science – well, it wouldn’t be the first time these heroes have saved the day!’ With his quick wit and enthusiasm for his subject Kakalios will bring new insights into superheros and science at his event at the book festival this August. He makes superheroes sound so plausible that you may leave thinking you need to acquire a cape. (Heather McDaid) ■ Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 19 Aug, 7pm, £10 (£8).
32 THE LIST FESTIVAL 15–26 Aug 2013
back, however. McIlvanney reveals a further exciting chapter in his distinguished writing career: ‘personaldispatches.com is a website (established for me by my nephew, Neil McIlvanney),’ he explains. ‘It’s a haphazard autobiography of thought and feeling about matters both personal and public.’
There is no definite plan to the daily posts, articles and essays. ‘I think that out of this material may come a strange kind of book,’ he says. The website is a delight; it’s also an important archive of rich material. William McIlvanney has stepped out of the past and into the digital era. (Janette Currie) ■ Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 16 Aug, 3pm, £10 (£8).
It’s inevitable that Robertson’s latest novel, The Professor of Truth, about a man who loses his wife and child in a terrorist attack on a plane that crashes into the Scottish countryside, should make readers think about Lockerbie, and wonder if this is Robertson’s attempt to write the Scots equivalent of the 9/11 novel. Does he mind people making those connections with that horrific event? Absolutely not, he says. ‘The novel was inspired
by the Lockerbie bombing. I wanted to explore, through fiction, some of the ideas that a huge story like Lockerbie generates. If that makes people think about the real event and all its ramifications, that’s a good result.’
Does he see the confrontation between his Scottish professor, Alan Tealing, and Ted Nilsen, the American operative who visits him out of the blue, as a battle between good and evil? ‘Between right and wrong, perhaps, which is not quite the same thing. People caught up in such events make decisions which have consequences. Their motivations may not be wicked but the consequences may be very bad indeed.’ (Lesley McDowell) ■ Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 18 Aug, 8.30pm, £10 (£8).