Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Sunday, 22 August 2010
We can quibble about what is Scotland's greatest film or who is our greatest director, but it is difficult to refute that Bill Forsyth's run of his four 'Scottish' films have never been equaled. From his debut That Sinking Feeling, through Gregory's Girl and Comfort and Joy before finishing off in fine style with Local Hero I can't think of many directors who can boast this hit rate in their work. Maybe Woody Allen (Sleeper to Manhattan) or Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver to The King of Comedy). These are the directors in whose company Bill Forsyth belongs. Certainly no Scot can claim such a run to match this, indeed few are given the opportunity.
Local Hero marked the end of one period for Forsyth, and the beginning of another, one which I would claim is underrated. It is easy to see that this was always meant to be the film that sold him to Hollywood. It was certainly his first international film. Using a completely unscientific hunch I think that people from Scotland usually say that Gregory's Girl is their favourite Forsyth film, and those from outside often prefer Local Hero. The film feeds into the Kailyard mythology to a significant extent, while also subverting it. The viewer is lured in with typical Scottish imagery, and leaves with a new take on the country and its culture.
Local Hero sees Forsyth at his peak, and his mixture of charm, self deprecation and subversion of an audiences expectations was applied to those thorny questions of belonging and home. We have Peter Rieger's 'MacIntyre' who is sent by his star-struck boss Burt Lancaster to Scotland as he will be able to relate to 'his people', even though his people are actually from Hungary and changed their name so that they could better fit in in their new home of the USA. The locals of the village of Ferness are whip smart, and see profit to be made from the US money men, particularly Denis Lawson's 'Gordon Urquhart'. This character could have been an unlikable smart arse but with this actor that was never going to happen. Perhaps Scotland's most underrated screen actor Lawson plays Urquhart with a mix of self satisfaction, confidence, and easy going charm. It is the key piece of casting in the film. Here's the trailer:
Friday, 20 August 2010
I had started to write about being in and around Edinburgh this week, the usual kind of 'what I did on my holidays piece', when I heard the news that Edwin Morgan had died. Morgan was the first Scottish poet, in fact the first poet, who meant something to me.
Like many Scots, I first encountered him in the classroom, and In The Snack Bar. Not many things from my schooldays have stayed with me, and certainly nothing to the extent of this poem. I only need to think about it and I'm transported back to that Snack Bar with all the accompanying sounds, smells and atmosphere. The plight of the blind man with his 'dismal hump' and face never seen, the voyeuristic nature of those watching, and those reading, and the uncomfortable relationship between young and old; between hope and despair. It takes some poem to stir the emotions of a 14 year old teenage boy who spent most of his time staring out the window, but here it was and Morgan had me hooked.
Over the years I have read his work with awe, from his early collections such as The Vision of Cathkin Braes, through the concrete poetry of the 60s, to his sonnets and the translations into Scots (his Cyrano de Bergerac is a particular favourite). Considering his published work spanned over 50 years the unrelenting quality is astonishing, and some of his best work was to be found in 2007's A Book of Lives. But for all his variety and mastery over form and subject I think that where he was at his best was as writer of poetry concerning love, whether in, out, or in that limbo in between the two. Few have ever managed it better.
Consistently brilliant, intellectual and intimate, charming and challenging, humorous and humble. Edwin Morgan was all of these things and so much more. In tribute to him fellow poet and friend Liz Lochhead said that Morgan was 'pro-life', and I can't think of a better summary of the man and his work. There are really only three poets that I look forward to their new material as I do with my favourite authors. One is Tom Leonard, another Don Patterson and the other died yesterday. The world is a less beautiful place today.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
RG: Definitely seeing Chuck Palahniuk a couple of years ago. It was a sold out one in the big main venue and he blew up, then threw around sex dolls. Not very reverential, but people loved him. Extremely charismatic, no bullshit, very positive, fun, but not afraid to be serious sometimes.
SWH: Who are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
RG: I really want to see Robert Alan Jamieson, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to. His new novel Da Happie Laand is coming out on Luath Press I think….he’s a really underrated Scottish writer of the 80s and 90s, and this is his first book in 15 years. He’s been working on this for that long. We should treasure talents like Alan Jamieson. He’s responsible for encouraging many young Scottish writers when they most needed it. Kevin MacNeil is a great example of that.
SWH: You’re heavily involved in The Year of Open Doors short story collection. Can you outline and explain the events at the Festival that are linked to the book?
RG: Well, we have three events – one, on the 21st, is a straight ahead book festival event. We have Micaela Maftei, a brilliant new writer, along with Kevin MacNeil and Doug Johnstone, doing short readings and discussing the book with me. Then we have two events as part of the new Unbound stand taking place in the Spiegeltent in the event. We have two Open Doors nights: the first is on August 22nd, with the likes of Kapka Kassabova, Sophie Cooke and Helen Lynch (there’ll be lots of us that night, all doing short turns), and then on the big final night party, Alan Bissett, Ryan Van Winkle with literature, and my band Burnt Island and Adrian Crowley playing music. That’s the launch for our Chemikal Underground audiobook, which I’m really excited about. That should be a real belter. Get yer tickets early folks! (Please excuse the salesman talk…force of habit…)
SWH: Can you say anything about future projects that you are working on, either fiction or otherwise?
RG: The next one is Dougie’s War, a comic coming out on Freight Publishing, they of Gutter Magazine – it’s published on September 16th and we’ll be doing events for that over the autumn and winter, and hopefully further on too. It’s really a book about PTSD – a soldier’s return from
SWH: How important do you feel that book festivals have become in the promotion of literature?
RG: Very. You’re expected to take your work to the world now, and as
Rodge Glass and Scots Whay Hae! 13/8/10
Rodge Glass's books are available from Amazon and all good book shops.
You can find all about the music of Burnt Island at chaffinchrecords .
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Friday, 13 August 2010
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Monday, 2 August 2010
Next month's featured novel is another debut; Anne Donovan's 2003 book Buddha Da. This novel is a delight, particularly in its structure and characterisation. Donovan manages to write three narrators who always maintain their independence and voice. It is a, mostly, Glasgow set novel that doesn't require the accompanying 'gritty' to describe it and is a realistic depiction of an ordinary family who enter an extraordinary time in all of their lives. If I was the kind of person who gave one liners I would say it was 'the feel good Scottish novel of the noughties'. But I'm not.