Reviews & features: Books

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Bletherheads

21 Aug 2009

Literary and performance talent on the cheap

Why would you bother forking out your last twenty quid for a probably patchy big-name comedian when you can see the cream of Scotland’s literary and performance talent, live, for less than the price of a fish supper? The increasingly ubiquitous…

Top 5: Authors You'll Have Seen on Telly

21 Aug 2009

Charlotte Square's more recognisable faces

Pauline McLynn It’s probably the kind of thing that really irks an author trying to break out from the shell of their most recognisable role, but with McLynn, all you can really think about is Mrs Doyle determinedly offering a cup of tea with the words…

Hitlist: Books

21 Aug 2009

The best of the literary fest

Suhayl Saadi, Frank Gardner, Steve Toltz, Tobias Hill, Susie Orbach, Mark Millar, Douglas Coupland

David Simon/Richard Price

21 Aug 2009

From Baltimore to Edinburgh

OK, so if you didn’t know it by now, The Wire is officially ‘the best TV drama series ever made’. Everyone from Jay Z to George Osborne have professed their love for the now defunct Baltimore show while arts journalists at The Guardian are forced to…

Five questions: Margaret Elphinstone

21 Aug 2009

The ancient history of Scotland is a subject which fascinates Margaret Elphinstone and provides the basis for her fiction. Here, she dips into our Q&A Give us five words to describe The Gathering Night? Our hunter-gatherer past in Scotland. Which…

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The Generation Game: Douglas Coupland

20 Aug 2009

18 years after his breakthrough, the Generation X author, provides us with a sequel. Of sorts.

Fans and critics have known it was coming for months, with rumour and misinformation clogging up chat rooms and columns. Now that Generation A is finally set to be unleashed upon the reading public, we’ll see if the furious debate will have been…

Frank Gardner

20 Aug 2009

A travel journalist like no other

Frank Gardner is not your average two-weeks-by-a-pool-in-Majorca kind of fella. Words like ‘wanderlust’ and ‘globetrotter’ don’t really do justice to a life spent doing what the BBC Security Correspondent describes as ‘epically hard travelling’.

Planet of the Shapes: Susie Orbach

20 Aug 2009

The bestselling psychotherapist on body fascism

In 1978, psychotherapist Susie Orbach wrote the bestselling Fat is a Feminist Issue, warning against dieting, and outlining the compulsive behaviour linked to eating disorders. Fast forward 30-odd years, and have we paid heed to her warnings? In her…

Jason Donald

20 Aug 2009

Opening doors in other people’s memories

‘The reaction to Choke Chain has been positive and often emotional,’ says Glasgow-based author Jason Donald, whose first novel was published earlier this year. His debut is a tender, at times uncomfortable, coming-of-age tale of two brothers growing up…

Mark Millar

20 Aug 2009

Helping comics go widescreen

Mark Millar is surely the Steven Spielberg of the comics world. It’s a tricky task to be hugely popular while retaining massive critical acclaim, but he’s managed to successfully straddle the world of art and commerce with his love of mainstream heroes…

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Steve Toltz

20 Aug 2009

Succeeding with slices of lick and portions of skill

Steve Toltz has been a private detective, a cameraman, an English teacher and telemarketeer, but now the author is doing what his Australian mates have been doing for years: turning up at the Edinburgh Festival. Toltz, whose chunky first novel A…

Tobias Hill

20 Aug 2009

Exposing demons through vigorous research

There’s a fascination with secrets in the works of Tobias Hill. His 1999 début novel, Underground, depicts the unseen world beneath the streets of London, and The Cryptographer, from 2003, features a code breaker caught in a futuristic web of lies and…

Sara Maitland

20 Aug 2009

The cultural history of quiet contemplation

‘We generally tend to be very romantic about silence. People say, “wouldn’t it be lovely to be silent”, but then they don’t do anything to make it happen.’ Having hitherto led a noisy family-filled life as both a prize-winning novelist and outspoken…

Kids Events at the Book Festival

14 Aug 2009

The events and authors for the younger generation

Old favourites for kids include Michael Morpurgo (22 Aug), Malorie Blackman (22 Aug), Jacqueline Wilson (23 Aug), Anne Fine (23 Aug), Julia Donaldson (24 Aug), and Terry Deary of horrible history stardom (28 Aug), but there’s a whole lucky-dip of events…

Top 5 authors with three names

14 Aug 2009

For some writers, a middle initial just isn’t enough to get across their need for a slightly longer name than is the norm. Here’s a quintet of triple-monikered authors: George Dawes Green Two events from the tri-titled New York chap, firstly…

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The Mulgray Twins

14 Aug 2009

Gentle crime from unique pairing

If you’re walking around Charlotte Square Gardens and need a double take towards a pair of 70-year-old women who look almost exactly the same, strong chances are it’s Helen and Morna Mulgray. The former teachers who have never been married but have…

Frank Skinner

13 Aug 2009

He may now be in his 50s, but there’s no real sign of Frank Skinner slowing up. The cheeky Midlands chappie has delivered his memoir of life back on the stand-up circuit, On the Road, and in this List-sponsored event you can expect the honesty and…

Beatrice Colin: A History Maker

13 Aug 2009

The author speaks of how contemporary Scotland influences her novels of Europe's past

Beatrice Colin’s entry in the Book Festival catalogue describes her as a ‘debut novelist’, which may confound anyone who’s encountered The Luminous Life of Lily Nelly Aphrodite. The Glasgow writer’s huge, beautiful 2008 novel takes in Berlin from…

5 Questions: Helen Fitzgerald

13 Aug 2009

Give us five words to describe My Last Confession? Menacing, funny, fast, twisted, gripping. Which authors should be more famous than they are now? I love the multiple layers in Kate Atkinson’s stories and think she should be even more famous…

Courtyard Readings

13 Aug 2009

Hey! Yeah, you there, with the furrowed brow, the fistful of flyers and the crazed, distracted look. Listen, put down the Fringe Guide – it’s okay, just for an hour – and tuck yourself away in the soothing environs of the Scottish Poetry Library’s…

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Xiaolu Guo

12 Aug 2009

Creating political parables out of flying saucers

After her reading at the Book Festival last year, Chinese author Xiaolu Guo spent a lot of her Q&A session chatting about the literary headaches, not to mention boredom, created by translating from her first language, Chinese, into English. She had gone…

Chika Unigwe

12 Aug 2009

Learning how much shame there is in luxury

The depiction of prostitutes in fiction can be a one-dimensional affair, but not in Chika Unigwe’s poignant and moving novel On Black Sisters’ Street. Unigwe was raised in Nigeria, but has spent the last decade in Belgium, and it was a culture shock…

James Kelman

12 Aug 2009

Striking deep into the Scottish soul

There can be few Scottish writers as lauded as James Kelman, and rightly so. The Glasgow-born author has spent a career carving out a place as the authentic voice of his generation, his use of stream-of-consciousness prose and vernacular Scots…

James Lasdun - The Art of the Short Story

12 Aug 2009

Over the years James Lasdun has turned his pen to novels, screenplays, travel writing, journalism and poetry, but short stories are his current medium of choice, having recently published his third collection, It’s Beginning to Hurt. Lasdun suggests…

James Lovelock - The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

12 Aug 2009

He has been likened to ‘an Old Testament prophet’ by John Carey, identified as the creator of an ‘evil religion’ by biologist John Maynard Smith, and labelled a writer of ‘pop-ecology literature’ by Richard Dawkins. James Lovelock, veteran scientist and…