The Edinburgh International Book Festival is over for another year although I still have many tales to tell. It’ll probably take another couple of weeks to condense the last 5 days into something ressembling a sensible journal particularly as I’ve now returned to the day job.
Settling back into a routine after all the recent excitement is going to be difficult and so I’m choosing to break myself in gently by concentrating on short stories. Short Story September was something I participated in last year – albeit half-heartedly. However, it marked the beginning of an increasing fascination with the form and so this year, although I’m not sure if there is an official Short Story September in blogland, I’m intending to average one short story per day. Subconsciously I’ve been collecting short story anthologies all year and so I could now read one short story per day for the rest of the year and still have stories left to read.
I warmed up during the past two weeks with an anthology set within Edinburgh itself. One City is the first publication of the One City Trust – a charity set up to promote social inclusion in Edinburgh. Internationally renowned for its cultural excellence, Edinburgh is a city of stark contrasts and this is shown in a humorous way in this volume. I mean could you ever imagine Alexander McCall Smith appearing in the same book as Irwine Welsh? Could you ever imagine Lizzy reading Irwine Welsh? Nor could I but I really enjoyed his story. No – let me caveat that – I really enjoyed the first part of the story which is a very funny setup for the rampage of a man-eating tiger on the loose in the suburbs of Edinburgh. The bad language began in the second section …. shame, really, without that I would have categorised this story as brilliant – pace and plot were superb. Alexander McCall-Smith’s story of a homesick immigrant which also incorporates a man-eating tiger. For all that it’s a typical McCall-Smith benign observation of the human race, in which the placing of a photograph on a kitchen shelf constitutes a cruel and cowardly act. There’s also a wild cat in Ian Rankin’s tale of big issue sellers and would-be street magicians plus a goodly dash of mystery for good measure.
I was intending to get the book signed by all three authors during the festival but missed Alexander McCall-Smith and didn’t have enough courage to face Irwine Welsh! I mean what would I have said if he’d asked if I liked his story? More importantly, how would he have reacted? However, I did collect Ian Rankin’s signature and I’m giving my copy away so that you can join me in Short Story September, if you’re so inclined. There’s also a copy of the 2008 National Short Story Award anthology up for grabs. It contains the 5 stories shortlisted for last year’s award. Each book comes with its own Edinburgh Book Festival Book Bag!
If you’d like to be considered for either, or both of these books, please leave a comment along with any recommendations of excellent short stories you may have. Competition open worldwide. Winners will be notified on Monday 7.9.2009.