It’s Tam O’ Shanter in glorious Technicolour

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The Scottish Gallery hosted the launch this week of what is undoubtedly the most beautiful book published so far to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Burns: Birlinn’s edition of Tam O’ Shanter, with a magnificent selection of Alexander Goudie’s drawings and painting on that theme.

When seen all together, the images resemble nothing less than the storyboards for an unmade animated film. With any luck, some bright spark at Scottish Screen will take a look – a cartoon version of the poem, made by young Scottish filmmakers and honouring a great Scottish painter would be a proper legacy for the Homecoming year.

In a Twitter

I was allowed a sneak preview of this year’s West Port Book Festival. It promises “poets with panache, novelists with tall tales, old hands and young upstarts, beguiling magicians, crisps, very dead people, singular second-hand bookshops, twitterers, whisky-scented pubs, crisp art spaces, cool cafs and books”. Among the highlights are Douglas Dunn and JO Morgan (his Natural Mechanical is sublime) on 13 August and Elaine di Rollo, above – who proves that women can very passably buckle a swash – and John Hegley on 16 August. At the world’s first “Literary Twestival”, those unacquainted with the online joys of Twitter will be provided with typewriters as the digerati version of stabilisers on your bike.

Poet pourri

On Thursday night, the Scottish Poetry Library was transformed into a kind of bohemian salon, complete with a Celtic/Latin band, for the relaunch of the poetry magazine Anon. In keeping with their submissions policy (“We don’t care who you aren’t”) there was a nod to the 60s series The Prisoner and iPods dotted around so you could hear the poetry without being distracted by the poet. Editor Colin Fraser told me that, as a concession to convention, they had also set up a “chapel” for more typical readings and their reverential atmosphere. Find out more at

Who goes there?

It seemed fitting that, just before attending the anonymous launch, I was deep in the new novel by Thomas Pynchon, the most notoriously elusive author of his generation. Inherent Vice is the most accessible Pynchon novel I’ve read – think of it as the equivalent in his oeuvre to David Lynch’s The Straight Story – and certainly the funniest. Just think; the old geezer sitting next to you at the Book Festival this year might actually be America’s most profound living novelist.

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