Thanks to the energy of Scottish writers, says director CATHERINE LOCKERBIE, the Edinburgh International Book Festival just keeps getting better.
Words: Mark Fisher Photograph: Jonathan Littlejohn
‘The whole idea of the Edinburgh International Book Festival is palpany crazy,’ says the woman entrusted with the job of making it seem anything but. What's going on? Is Catherine Lockerbie, former literary editor on The Scotsman. feeling the pressure only six months into her new job as director? Not at all. It's the very ridiculousness of the idea that appeals to her.
‘It's clearly nonsensical from its foundations onwards.’ she says. ‘Reading is a solitary activity, writers are strange, warped. isolated beings who just want to huddle in their garrets, we add to that by having an outdoor event in Scotland in the late summer, in a city centre square surrounded by traffic and mutant seagulls . . . and you ask people to pay money! It can’t work. And that's part of the real magic of it. People want a public face to share their love of books, they crave proximity to authors.’
Brimming with the same passion and eloquence that characterised the three— year reign of Faith Liddell, her predecessor, Lockerbie is thrilled to have switched jobs. No longer the reactive journalist, she’s the proactive director. As she presents it, the job puts her not just at the centre of the literary world but at the very heart of contemporary thought.
‘There are so few public arenas for debate in our country,‘ she says. ‘The Book Festival can provide a place where you can sit around with a bunch of strangers and talk over issues — ethics, science, transport. anything — and that's crucial.‘
Claiming to have sat through more
20 THE LIST 15—29 Mar 2001
Book Festival events than anyone on the planet, Lockerbie says she‘s uniquely qualified to judge the festival from both sides of the Charlotte Square fence. Many of her changes will be behind the scenes — the staff for the world's biggest book festival has increased to a skeletal five from a barely conceivable three — while the programme itself, featuring seven Booker winners and close to 400 authors. will follow much the same pattern as before. ‘I’ve got all of my personal favourite authors coming this summer,‘ she promises. ‘But it‘s not a personal plaything: they’re the personal favourites of a lot of other people too.’
These are, she believes, invigorating times. With no special pleading. Scottish authors will represent a good third of the line-up. holding their own on the international stage, reflecting the dynamism of home-grown talent and the cultural maturity of the country. ‘lt‘s an amazingly exciting time to be doing this,‘ she says. ‘Just thinking about writers alive now. from Kelman onwards — Irvine Welsh, Des Dillon — they need not modify their cultural background. the way they speak. the way they write. And there‘s a huge appetite out there for that gallus go-for-it mentality. There’s a real feeling of energy which is something that the Book Festival helps to create, reﬂect and take further.‘
The Edinburgh International Book Festival, 1 1-27 Aug. The programme will be published in Jun.
So you think you know about Scottish books? Here's your chance to test your knowledge and win some goodies.
On offer are two bumper packages of Canongate books. First prize: The Great Rock Discography by Martin Strong, Under The Skin by Michael Faber, Snowblind by Robert Sabbag. Pimp by Iceberg Slim. and Pocket Canons Box Set I.
Second prize: The Great Alternative Discography by Martin Strong, Some Rain Must Fall by Michael Faber and Pocket Canons Box Set II.
Answer as many questions as you can and send your
entries to SCOTTISH BOOKS QUIZ, The List, 14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TE by Tuesday 3 April. Good luck.
1 Name the Scottish writers who have had these folk as central characters:
a) a Rangers-Supporting murderous barber called Barney
b) a paranord outcast called Martin Nitram
C) a Glasgow Universrty vet called Nina
2 What do these initials stand for? a) A.L. Kennedy b) JK. Rowling c) Iain M. Banks
3 Name the authors of these fictional crime-ﬁghters a) Maureen O‘Donnell
b) Jack Laidlaw
C) Quint Dalrymple
4 Opening lines: name the writer and the book
a) ‘The idea for this book began in the back of a Iaxr, the night a friend told me that a famous Scottish football manager had enjoyed rampant sex in a televisron studio with a well-known TV presenter. '
b) ‘Tell me again why y0u killed them.‘
c) ‘Lovely casserole. Marge. I remarked in between frantic mouthfuls.‘
5 Whose CV includes, ‘swine-herder, grape-picker, alcohol researcher, punk rocker’?
6 Which best-selling Scottish author was born in Chipping Sodbury?
7 These are the three home countries of which authors?
a) Scotland. England. France
b) Scotland. England. Ireland
C) Scotland, England. Holland
8 Who wrote a best-selling book about Robert Louis Stevenson and his family?
9 Name the six writers who made up the Children Of Albion Rovers?
10 Name the subjects of these autobiographies? 8) Curriculum Vitae
b) Managing My Life
c) Autobiography Of A Murderer
1 1 Which Scottish artist is upcoming
author Ruaridh Nicoll married to?
12 What do James Gandolfini and Alan Warner have in common?
13 Which year did Robert Louis Stevenson publish both Kidnapped and The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde?
14 Which two Scottish authors were nominated for this year’s Whitbread First Novel award?
15 And who won a Whitbread this year for poetry?
16 Who wrote a book in 1999 from the perspective of Gulliver’s wife? And what as it called?
17 Name the only Scot to win the Booker? 18 And who was the last Scot to be nominated?
19 Who is Glasgow’s Poet Laureate?
20 Thomas Harris isn’t the only author to publish a book called Hannibal who else has?