Heading to a bookshop in the middle of the fringe festival might seem an obvious choice to get a little peace and quiet. If you’re feeling like a quiet night in and don’t quite know what you want to read, the Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe is a charming introduction to writers both old and new, from debut authors to established favourites. It’s a story time for adults, a celebration of the simple pleasure of being read to.
A great way to sample new authors and styles of writing without having to commit.
Andrew Greig begins the evening with what he describes as a ‘series of casts and retrieves’ and he reads us a retrieve, taking us into the depths of Scotland, to lochs that are ‘sprinkled like bits of broken windshield’ over the land, a land where clumps of reeds become ‘like aerials’. He moved between passages, poetry and prose until he read us a final snippet from his own ‘short Odyssey’ of his experience sailing with friends.
An ‘Odyssey’ might be one way to describe this event, so varied and far flung are each of these author’s journeys. Next up was Sarah Maine, a debut author using her knowledge of archaeology to enhance her fictional writing that transcends time, working between two time frames, locked within the same building. Then Margaret Haliday’s self-published travel memoirs of her six month exploration of India, Prana Soup, an Indian Odyssey that sees everything from a fear of increasingly intrepid rats to an unlikely marriage proposal.
The most dramatic reading of the evening came from the animated Ajay Close reading from her novel Trust. ‘She had a powerful voice for such a small frame’, Close says of her protagonist and the same might be said of herself. Inspired by her own experience of the social divisions during the miners’ strikes of the eighties her novel intensifies this experience, as Close gives her protagonist the opportunity to reconcile these conflicting loyalties.
The evening ends with the ingenious Lesley Glaister reading from her most recent novel Little Egypt, a tale of obsessive Egyptologist parents in which Glaister leaves us with the brilliant description of the simple joy of riding on a camel, a creature that unfolds itself ‘just like an ironing board’ in an uplifting and intriguing taster.
The erratic energy of the compere and the range of the authors reading created an engaging atmosphere in which we were taken from the depths of Scotland’s lochs to the far reaches of the Egyptian desert. This is a great way to sample new authors and styles of writing without having to commit. Insightful little snippets and amusing anecdotes make this event a delightful taster session and one I would highly recommend before picking up your next book.