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Festival Recommendations & Reviews – Part 2

There’s so much going on this week, we should be saying Monday is a great day to be at the Book Festival – for the entire day!

To start with our own friends, the New Voices Showcase will feature (at least) two former Salon Guest Writers, Charlie Roy and Anna Cheung, along with our publishing pals, with Sally Magnusson presenting a fantastic line-up.

A Close Read event, presented by Marjorie Lofti and Claire Urquhart from Open Book exploring memoir will be looking at work by two friends of the Salon, Catherine Simpson (One Body) and Michael Pedersen (Boy Friends.)

Another friend of the Salon and eminent Edinburgh author Ian Rankin will be at Central Hall raising a glass (of beer?) to Absent and Imaginary Friends.

Our Steering Group recommendations include Simon Parkin: A Prison of Luminaries 13:00 - 14:00 and Cristina Bendek: Shifting Sands 15:30 - 16:30, plus Jessie Burton: Return to the Doll's House 17:00 - 18:00, and Amy Liptrot 19:00 - 20:00.

On Tuesday, there is plenty of time before our Birthday Party to go and see our good friend Charlie Roy again, with Karen Campbell. As Charlie told us at our last salon, you can also watch this livestreamed, even after the event.

There’s also another chance to Join Samuel Tongue discussing Nothing but the Poem: The Poetry of Ada Limón – then Sam will join as our Guest Writer at our Birthday Bash.

Review – Richard Holloway

Another eminent local writer – known to some of us at the Salon, and certainly to those at the Book Festival – is Richard Holloway. After twenty-three years at EIBF and having published thirty-three books, not to mention a wee stint as Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Richard continues to enjoy a new congregation.

Amusingly, since moving from Charlotte Square, the Book Festival now uses the Methodist Central Hall as a venue, which is a far cry from Richard’s beloved intimate sacred space of Old Saint Paul’s church (and far less acoustically clear.)

But perhaps Methodism – in its most liberal form – is a good illustration of where Doctor Holloway now stands, theologically, philosophically, and personally.

With a strong following of devotees that, despite his apparent bravado, makes him cringe a little – especially when introduced by Alison Watt as “the wisest person any of us know” – the crowd surely knows to expect some frank views, at least one teary episode, and a good swear or two.

If only the fodder fed from every pulpit had the same honesty and passion.

It is Richard’s acceptance of his own humanity, as well as the tussles of religion and morality, of the binary struggles of politics, and a quest to find meaning in a meaningless universe that led him to conclude that we are “fucked up creatures.” Alison Watt suggested this should be the title of his next book, leading Richard to justify his language by quoting from that miserable bugger, Larkin.

It is to poetry that Richard Holloway is most often drawn; what Alison spoke of as its ‘tender sorrow,’ asking if we (Scots) are naturally melancholic? With accidental rhyming, Richard spoke of the weather and the heather, adding to it the drone of pipes and our natural propensity for lamentation. But, he said, poetry notices this and “sets it down.”

The quest of politics and religion has been to present dogma and impose meanings, certainties, answers, rather than create dialogue, empathy, kindness, forgiveness.

Poetry is honest about the human situation, accepting that even if our existence is ultimately meaningless it has come up with rhyme, art, symphonies, the beauty of a tiny kitten. Richard Holloway appears to be waiting for that last bus which he spoke about in what we thought would be his final book. But as he said at the start of this event, “Stuff happened that wasn’t in the script.”

Let’s see what happens next…


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