Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Day 5

Some good juicy discoveries today.

People may be quick to turn their noses up at famous erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey", but Alexander McCall Smith thinks the book's sky-high popularity is nothing to disapprove of. It may not be high-calibre literature, he says, but much of the money it's earning will find its way back into the publishing industry, benefiting promising new authors in years to come. There was a lot of impressed nodding in the audience when he made this point.

Val McDermid is known for her suspenseful and serious crime novels - but today saw her wandering Charlotte Square Gardens with a pirate's hat on her head and a stuffed parrot on her shoulder. She has officially dubbed herself "the Scottish Rod Hull".

Who do you think the most famous figures at the Book Festival are? There are a few to choose from. But I bet you're wrong. The most famous figures are in fact the rubber ducks, which bob around merrily in the puddles ifever the rains come a-callin'. And over the past few days I've heard at least ten people bemoan the beautiful weather and hope the skies open so that the Book Festival ducks can have a splash! Judging by the pitter-patter on the roofs of the tents, they may get their chance soon...

Writer Daniel Tammet spoke today about being an autistic savant and a lover of numbers, and shared that he taught himself empathy by using mathematics. Numbers are universal, and, by appreciating this, he found it easier to relate to those around him. He remembers, for instance, tears being shed when he recited pi. The power and beauty of numbers has proved to build bridges between strangers.

The love and admiration in the Main Theatre for Alexander McCall Smith today was such that it was as if each member of the audience knew him personally. (And, given his approachable demeanour, maybe they did.) His event had a musician, a guest reader, a great interview, and a poem to finish. (And you can still see him! In his event tomorrow at 6.30PM.)

The fellow sitting next to me was from Tasmania, and reads McCall Smith books in order to "stay in touch with the people of Edinburgh". And the lady in front of me had such genuine passion for Alexander McCall Smith that Sandy himself was stirred, and spontaneously gave her a signed book mid-event. She was a writer too... so, in fact, they swapped signed books. A strange and sweet little hand-over ceremony in the middle of one of the most enjoyable Book Festival hours so far.

Day 4

Another packed day of discoveries at the Book Festival. Here are a few...

Andy Coogan is Edinburgh hero Chris Hoy's great uncle - and was an Olympic torchbearer this year! You can watch Andy in action on YouTube, and see him in person at the Book Festival on the 25th in his event with Graham Ogilvy.

The press tent here at the Book Festival is always full of people tapping away on state-of-the-art equipment; but today we also had something not so state-of-the-art. Rob of RobAroundBooks brought in a typewriter! Those of us who'd never used a typewriter before were keen to show that we were... well, not very good at it.

Despite being a bad liar, Clive Stafford Smith (whose event has been one of my absolute favourites so far) can beat a lie detector (polygraph test). At the beginning of the test, you're asked basic, easy questions, such as your mother's maiden name. Clive was taught that to cheat the test all you have to do is think the most erotic thoughts you can when asked these basic questions. Though he didn't find this very easy to do while thinking about his mother's maiden name.

Book cover designer Jamie Keenan has shared some of his secrets. Sometimes he'll just scribble the title of the book in a funky sort of way, et voilà! An excellent book cover design.

Today I made a point of going along to some of the daily free events offered by the Book Festival.

First there's Ten at Ten in the Writers' Retreat, which features a ten-minute reading (at 10AM) from one of the Book Festival authors. Check the screen in the Entrance Tent to find out who's reading that morning.

The City of Literature Trust's Story Shop is a chance to hear new writers share their talent from 4PM in the Guardian Speigeltent. Story Shop contributors from previous years have gone onwards and upwards, so see them now and boast about it in years to come.

The Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers series is a significant string to the Book Festival bow, with its events from 17.30 to 16.45. Each day in Peppers Theatre the Amnesty event features favourite authors reading from the works of writers persecuted simply for being who they are. Tickets are free, and you can pick them up from the Box Office on the day.

Unbound enjoys its "anything goes" reputation, from poetry to music, from storytelling to stand-up comedy. It takes place in the grand Guardian Spiegeltent, and whether an event is haunting and sumptuous or laugh-out-loud funny, it's bound to be unique. Take a look at The Skinny website for the Unbound programme. Events are on from 9PM each night.

If you're after a great day at the Book Festival without worrying about price, the above lot is your answer. Open the day with a Ten at Ten reading, discover new writers in the afternoon's Story Shop, followed by some moral discourse courtesy of Amnesty International, bring a picnic to enjoy in the sprawling green Gardens, and end with an entertaining night in the atmospheric Speigeltent.

As for the kids, there are fun, hands-on activities in the RBS Story Box at any time between 11AM and 4.30PM, and, if you book in advance, enjoyable half-hour events at 10AM in the Story Box.

And the price for all this? Zilch.