Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Edinburgh international book festival diary

Jackie Kay, the Scottish poetJackie Kay, Colin Thubron and AL Kennedy in our honorary awards to mark the end of the Edinburgh Book Festival


The poet Jackie Kay won the Scottish book of the year award for her memoir Red Dust Road, in which she traces her natural father. Photograph: Gary Calton
• Some end-of-term reports as the Edinburgh international book festival edges towards its close. Most excitable introduction to an author award goes to the chair of Jackie Kay's event, who promised that an hour spent with the poet was the "literary equivalent of a ride in the Large Hadron Collider". Most peculiar question goes to the audience member who asked the, in novelist AL Kennedy's session: "When I see Anne Robinson on telly, why is she using your voice to speak?" And the prize for the most self-deprecatory opening statement goes to Colin Thubron, arguably Britain's greatest living travel writer, who prefaced his talk by quoting Margaret Atwood on the perils of meeting authors: "If you like paté, don't bother meeting the duck."
• Thubron spoke movingly about his new work, To A Mountain in Tibet, which describes a journey he took to the slopes of the sacred mountain Kailas after the death of his mother. He spoke also of the changing nature of travel writing – which is enjoying an upsurge in popularity, infiltrating history, memoir and nature writing. "The kind of travel writing I have done," he said, "where you go to somewhere remote, and sometimes dangerous, will get more rare. But it is a new duty of travel writers to find out what is beneath the superficial Coca-Cola-isation of cultures such as China and the former Soviet Union."
• Jackie Kay last week won the Scottish book of the year award for her memoir Red Dust Road. Her Nigerian father and Scottish mother met in Aberdeen; when Kay was born she was adopted by a Glaswegian couple. Red Dust Road records Kay's tracing her born-again Christian father, who saw Kay as the living embodiment of a sin of the flesh had once committed. The book, however, is extraordinarily upbeat. "I'm bored with the misery memoir as a form," said Kay. "Self-pity is one of humankind's least likeable traits, along with meanness. Self-pity: it's so last year."

No comments: