Edinburgh Book Festival 2012

It’s worse than waiting for Christmas, but infinitely more rewarding. The wooden walkways, the yurt, the bookshop, the author sightings, the vastly inflated prices in the cafe. I am always amazed and delighted at the physical transformation of Charlotte Square.

Last night the Guardian chaired a debate asking if culture would lose it’s shine in an Independent Scotland. It wasn’t chaired particularly well and kept drifting from the question of culture to the question of nationalism. It did raise a number of points for me, particularly this notion of a Scottish writer. I find this so hard to define.

I was living in London at the time of Devolution and my ignorance of Scottish politics then is only equalled by my ignorance now. I don’t know where I stand on question of an independent nation, but I do know the tone and  rhetoric of everyone I listen to who advocate an independent Scotland make me want to up sticks and get back to Maida Vale while I still have a chance at affording the rent. Surely there is going to be a representational difference in the Man Booker Prize between Scottish and English writers simply because our population is over 5 million and England’s over 50 million. Is our exclusion from the Man Booker Prize because we are marginalised or because we don’t have enough or any, or any good literary authors? Shouldn’t we focus on changing that than mud-slinging ‘Westminster’?  I think the idea of a Royal Family is outdated and unnecessary, but we had Kings and Queens in Scotland before the union. It is not imposed English rule. What is this ‘Scottish perspective’ the BBC apparently have failed to provide? As the average Scot on the street I don’t know.

I went to the debate last night to learn something about being Scottish, about Scottish culture and yes, ultimately about an independent Scotland; now I just have more questions.

One point I would like to make though and it was a key factor in my decision to leave Edinburgh. I once read it described as a town of 500 people who all know each other. The audience at the debate proved that to be true. They all seem to be over 60 as well.

After the debate, I sauntered over to the Scottish Power Studio to see Ewan Morrison chairing Andrew Keen. Mr Morrison is a new discovery of mine – thank you Electric Bookshop – and he and Andrew Keen have some quite disturbing views on the internet, social media and Web 2.0, concluding those of us still using Facebook are online, living corpses. The ghoul in me is quite happy with this. Mr Morrison is a relaxed and gracious chair, and there was a nice mutual respect between the two of them. There was a less than respectful audience member in the cheap seats at the back who not able to restrict himself to openly disagreeing with Andrew, felt the need to be rude about one of his books calling it ‘shoddy work’. A cheap shot from an ivory tower; very Edinburgh.

Just as a fun thing to do as an online corpse: if you go to Andrew Keen’s Wikipedia page, there is an interesting photo of him eating a cupcake.

High on my to read list

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