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  • Alistair Braidwood

Book Early to Avoid Disappointment: The Best of This Year’s Edinburgh Book Festival…

This year’s Edinburgh Book Festival programme is now available for your perusal, and as usual it’s a daunting task to sort out the wheat from the bookish chaff. But that’s why we’re here, so here is Scots Whay Hae!’s guide to the best of what’s on offer.

The Festival is back at Charlotte Square, runs from the 13th of August to the 29th, and there are many highlights. First up there is Alasdair Gray (13th Aug), who will be talking about his pictorial biography A Life In Words and Pictures and his latest project which is the mural that will soon appear at Glasgow’s Hillhead Underground station. Although he’ll probably talk about anything but, and will be all the more entertaining for it. More of him later.

Also on the opening Saturday is Alan Warner who will be talking about his forthcoming novel The Dead Man’s Pedal, and Alexei Sayle who has a new memoir to promote; Stalin Ate My Homework.

On Sunday the 14th there are two of my favourite writers in any format. Ali Smith has a new novel out There But For The, and I consider her one of the best novelists around today, or any day. I have been in love with Caitlin Moran since she first wrote for the Melody Maker in the 1980s, and, from what I’ve read about her latest book How To Be A Woman, that’s not going to change any time soon. She is one of the best writers on culture and society we have and should be regarded as a national treasure. Gush over.

On Wednesday the 16th Neil Gaiman pops into town. Over the years he has proved to be one of the greatest writers of graphic novels, although you may be more familiar with him as the man who recently penned the best episode of the last series of Doctor Who, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’; the one where we meet the TARDIS in the physical form of Suranne Jones. If you like your fantasy then Gaiman is always worth listening to. Here he is talking about that episode:

The day after sees John Byrne being interviewed about his writing, which is a rarity. The man who wrote The Slab Boys, Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin’ Heart is best known these days for his painting, so it will be a pleasure to hear him talk about his drama. This could just be the most entertaining hour of the whole festival.

More graphic novel genius will be on display on Saturday the 20th in the form of the enigmatic Grant Morrison, who will be looking at the history of superheroes and their move from page to big screen. Also appearing that day is Ryan Van Winkle who I recently saw perform in the flesh, and who is guaranteed entertainment. He appears alongside Will Eaves and Rachael Boast. Here he is in interview:

The most intriguing title of the festival is The Magic of Civic Memory: Making Scotland’s of the Mind which sees Andrew O’Hagan, another favourite of Scots Whay Hae!, talk about novels and theatre, with an onstage adaptation of his novel The Missing in the offing. Don Patterson appears on Tuesday the 23rd to talk Shakespeare and Thursday the 25th sees many of the great and good of Scottish literature appearing; Jackie Kay, Louise Welsh, James Robertson, Irvine Welsh and Carol Ann Duffy. If you’re only in Edinburgh for one day, and like your Scottish writers, then maybe this is the one to pick.

Friday the 26th has two of Scotland’s best young writers appearing together, Doug Johnstone and Alan Bisset, who will ostensibly be promoting their latest novels, but will doubtless talk about all sorts of other things. The penultimate day of the festival sees our Makar Liz Lochhead visit Charlotte Square, and she is always worth hearing. Rodge Glass is in conversation with Pat Mills about the graphic novel Dougie’s War, and there is a discussion about New Scottish Writing featuring Louise Welsh, Sophie Cooke and Alan Taylor. Also, the great Will Self is in town.

And one of the reasons for this is the undoubted highlight of this year’s festival. To conclude proceedings there is a production of Alasdair Gray’s play Fleck. Get ready for those involved; Liz Lochhead, Alan Bissett, Chiew Siah Tei, Ron Butlin, Janice Galloway, A.L. Kennedy, Ian Rankin, Rodge Glass, Zoe Strachan, Louise Welsh, Alasdair himself as Old Nick and Mr Self as Fleck. There are even proper actors involved such as Gerda Stevenson and Cora Bisett. If you only see one thing at this year’s festival try and make it this. Tickets will fly, but it can’t fail to be a top night out. Here’s some Gray to tide you over:

Throughout the festival there is the late night jollies of UNBOUND which is in the Spiegeltent every night of the Festival and where you can meet many of your favourite writers who are likely to be suitably refreshed. If you are looking for some late-night entertainment then this is the place to find it. And it’s free!

You can find the whole programme here Tickets go on sale at 8.30am, Sunday 26th of June. It’s worth staying up all night just to secure those Fleck tickets.


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