Book review: Chronicles Of A Liquid Society, by Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco died in 2016, and this book was published in Italy under the title Papé Satàn Aleppe in the same year. The original title (the English one is the subtitle in the Italian) refers to a very ambiguous line in Dante that no-one really understands. Eco’s last novel, Numero Zero, seemed to me to be a return to the form of The Name Of The Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, after a number of works which might charitably be described as frolics of his own. His novelistic career had always run in tandem with his academic, non-fiction and journalistic work. But the reader can only leave this volume with a sense of disappointment and frustration.

Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier

Book review: Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, by Mark Frost

My cultural highlight of the year has been David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Return. Prior to the 18-hour televisual epic starting, Frost released The Secret History Of Twin Peaks, a neat recap with a few Easter eggs. Now we have a further tie-in volume, reflecting on the events of the series. In part, it allows him to tell stories that were not in the show. Conspicuously absent, for example, was Lara Flynn Boyle’s character from the original, Donna Hayward. In this “novel” – I use the word advisedly as it, like the former tome, is a series of classified reports written by in-show character Tammy Preston – we learn what happened to her. (It follows a particular, recurring arc: not good).

Journalists at work in The Scotsman newspaper's editorial department, North Bridge, Edinburgh, around 1948

Impartiality, firmness and independence - Ian Stewart on his new book about the history of The Scotsman

When Ian Stewart turned from The Scotsman’s editor to its chronicler, he was gratified to discover how closely it had always stuck to its principles

Alexander McCall Smith

Book review: The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, by Alexander McCall Smith

I think it was Ian Rankin who claimed that as global politics becomes more turbulent, the world will increasingly find itself in need of Alexander McCall Smith’s heart-warming novels, and he is right. The latest McCall Smith opus, The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, is a gentle romp through the world of land girls, war-time romance and an exceptional pet – the amusingly-named sheepdog that gives the book its title. The dog is called Peter Woodhouse due to a misunderstanding on the part of sweet but slightly simple-minded Willy, who saw the name – the brand of a removal company – on the side of the dog’s crate and adopted the unlikely moniker. Whether he is called Peter Woodhouse or Fido is largely irrelevant to the plot, yet the name is almost certainly intended to evoke a further layer of cosiness, unconsciously reminding the reader of PG Wodehouse and that sense of carefree, tea-drinking Britishness which suffuses his work.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, living in the moment PIC: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Book review: What We Think About When We Think About Football, by Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley is a well-regarded philosopher, whose output includes such high-minded titles as The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas. But he’s also a moron. That is to say he is, like so many of us, helplessly devoted to a game to the point where relationships with those we are closest to are bound to suffer.

Darren McGarvey PIC: John Devlin

Book review: Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey

Readers of The Scotsman have come to know Darren McGarvey as an unusually scrupulous columnist, one who argues with himself as much as with anyone else. His columns are often exploratory; it’s his own response to experience that he is exploring. In doing so, he challenges himself. The act of self-criticism moderates his criticism of others. He coined the phrase “Poverty Safari” when an artist was given a grant to spend a year in Glasgow exploring “the Glasgow Effect”; a piece, you might say, of self-indulgent tourism, and that is more or less what he did say. Then he revised his ungenerous opinion; he recognised that the artist was serious, not condescendingly slumming it.


25 best quotes from the Scots translation of Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been translated into 80 languages.

Lifestyle 2
Kapka Kassabova. Photo: Marti Friedlander 2014

Kapka Kassabova wins Scottish Book of the Year at the Saltire Literary Awards

A book described as “a meditation on the significance of borders” has been announced as the Scottish Book of the Year at the Saltire Literary Awards 2017. Kapka Kassabova, a Bulgarian writer who lives in Scotland, won the award for Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which is based on her travels in the frontier lands of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.

The prize was awarded to Glasgow University. Picture: John Devlin

Dictionary spanning 1,000 years of words scoops prize for Glasgow uni

A dictionary spanning more than a thousand years compiled by Scottish academics has been awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education.

Education 4
British author William Boyd PIC: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Book review: The Dreams Of Bethany Mellmoth, by William Boyd

This is a collection of interlinked stories, from a writer whose work I have often admired. William Boyd almost specialises in a kind of gilded failure sort of character, and these short stories, and a novella which is as exquisite as it is aggravating, capitalise on his strengths as they reveal his weaknesses. Film-makers, novelists, photographers and actors flit through the pages; anxious, aggrieved, angry and angst-ridden.

Stuart MacBride PIC: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Book review: Now We Are Dead, by Stuart MacBride

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. Once upon a time there was a man called Stuart who wrote crime novels in which awful things happened a lot, often to quite nice people. But Stuart wasn’t satisfied with being a writer and collector of stray kittens, so he went on Celebrity Mastermind, where he answered lots of questions, especially about AA Milne, and won a trophy and money for charity for his pains.

Lindsey Fitzharris

Book review: The Butchering Art, by Lindsey Fitzharris

When Queen Victoria fell seriously ill during a stay at Balmoral Castle in 1871, the head of surgery at the University of Edinburgh, Joseph Lister, was summoned to remove a worsening abscess. As he operated, a mist of carbolic acid was sprayed into the air to kill germs and prevent infection – a controversial antiseptic technique of his own invention.

"Guglanis subject isnt the particularities of a medical procedure or the political plight of our underfunded, overstretched health service, but his characters humanity."

Book review: Histories, by Sam Guglani

The Scotsman’s monthly review of a book about health, promoted by Wellcome

The Blue Mosque in autumn with yellow leaves, Istambul.

Book review: The Sultan’s Organ, by Jonathan Gaythorne-Hardy

The Levant Company was formed in the latter part of Elizabeth I’s reign to trade with the Ottoman Empire. Favour and accreditation were required, not easy and very expensive to secure. No business could be done without gifts; anyone who has had commercial dealings in Saudi Arabia will be likely to say “nothing has changed”. So if the all-powerful Sultan was to grant concessions to the Levant Company, Queen Elizabeth must send him a gift, the more impressive the better.

Russell Brand's new book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions is out now.   Bryan Derballa/The New York Times

Interview: Russell Brand

Keeping up with Russell Brand isn’t easy. He’s on the move as we speak, in the middle of publicising his new book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, and at the start of a new 71-date stand-up tour, Re:Birth, that comes to Scotland next year. But he’s on the move literally too, in a car crossing London, before heading home to his wife, Laura Gallacher and one-year-old daughter Mabel in Henley-on-Thames and we’ve been talking about his friend Amy Winehouse.

Novelist Muriel Spark, born in Edinburgh in 1918, at work. Photograph: National Library of Scotland

Muriel Spark’s life celebrated with show of handbags and glad rags

Dame Muriel Spark’s typewriter, dresses, handbags and rosary beads are to feature in a landmark exhibition marking 100 years since her birth.

Gordon Brown PIC: George McLuskie

Book review: My Life, Our Times, by Gordon Brown

It is not unusual for political autobiographies to generate newspaper copy, but rarely do they produce the outpouring of news and comment devoted to Gordon Brown’s My Life, Our Times. It has been impossible to turn to the news pages lately without encountering his revelations about US perfidy on the sharing of intelligence on Iraq, his account of the 2008 financial crisis or his version of the deal struck with Tony Blair that determined the Downing Street pecking order.

Alexander McCall Smith has agreed to create the operetta to support fundraising efforts by colleagues at the Faculty of Advocates.

Alexander McCall Smith writes operetta inspired by child slavery case

Best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith has written a new operetta inspired by a nameless 17th century girl sold by her mother to a travelling showman to become a performing gymnast.

Javier Cercas PIC: Joel Saget / AFP / Getty Images

Book review: The Imposter, By Javier Cercas

Enric Marco was one of the most famous men in Spain. As President of the “Amical de Mauthausen”, an association of Spanish survivors of the Nazi camps, he spoke eloquently about the evils of Fascism. In a speech given to the Spanish Parliament in 2005 his account of his experiences in a concentration camp had the children of deportees in the gallery in tears. This wasn’t all. He had fought on the Republican side in the Civil War, been persecuted by the Franco regime and then, as Secretary-general of the CNT (the Anarchist trade union) been influential in the transition of Spain from dictatorship to democracy. Quite a life! What a hero!

Craig Whyte is reportedly looking to sell a book idea to publishers. Picture: John Devlin

‘Craig Whyte book’ to lift lid on corruption and scandal in football

Excerpts from a book claiming to be by ex-Rangers owner Craig Whyte promises to reveal corruption and scandal at the heart of football and politics in Scotland.

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