There were a few quizzical looks at the James Tait Black awards in Edinburgh last Saturday night when the winner of Britain’s oldest literary awards was announced. Padgett Powell? Who he?
Powell’s minimalist You & I - “a southern send-up of Waiting for Godot”, according to its US publisher - is currently riding in 522,229th position in the bestseller charts. So what, you say: these things aren’t popularity contests. And just because it’s never been reviewed in any UK newspaper – well, that’s obviously because we’re too parochial, so let’s check out what his home crowd say about Powell.
“It’s a bit of a bummer,” frowns the New York Times. “The sound You & I mostly makes is that of a writer ... not appearing to try very hard. This short book, with its short chapters each topped by an ampersand, is mostly winding filler, talk that doesn’t seem quite worthy of the name.”
FESTIVALS TAKE FLIGHT
Just because the tents have all been cleared away from Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, don’t imagine that all is quiet on the Scottish book festival front. Far from it. On Tuesday, Kate Adie gets Nairn’s Book & Arts Festival under way with a programme that includes Iain Banks, Salley Vickers and Norwegian crime writer Thomas Enge (www.nairnfestival.co.uk). Then Stirling gets into the act – first with Off the Page (starting a week today, see offthepage.stirling.gov.uk), then with the new Bloody Scotland crime writing festival (14-16 September, www.bloodyscotland.com).
Bigger than both of them put together, though, is the Wigtown Book Festival (28 September-7 October, www.wigtownbookfestival.com), whose programme contains a fair number of excellent writers who, for one reason or another, never made it to Edinburgh. The inimitable Jan Morris, doyenne of travel writers, is just one of them, though there are plenty more - John Simpson, Jon Ronson, Marina Warner, Douglas Hurd, William Fiennes, Brooke Magnanti and Sara Maitland among them.
One of the other festival’s other delights is the way it makes the most of its surroundings. If you like the sound of Miriam Darlington’s Otter Country (see See page 2), for example, how about hearing her talk about it in Monreith House, the family home of Ring of Bright Water author Gavin Maxwell?
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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