The EIBF is full of wonderful moments. Listening to favourite authors, chatting to them at the book signings, making new discoveries, particularly in the EIBF book shop, catching up with fellow bookworms. From my perspective, most of this is planned, and it does take some planning (particularly if you are to dodge the rain!), though it is no less enjoyable for that.
Yet there is always an unplanned something that comes along and makes the whole experience extra special. Here are those moments from 2011.
1) Canongate Popup Shop
The 2011 EIBF coincided with the launch of the Canongate Canons series. So for one week only (and one year only – though hopefully not) they set up The Canongate Popup Shop, a couple of blocks away from the square. It was an innocuous looking place, though a veritable Aladdin’s cave of literary treasure once inside. Boasting perhaps the most comfortable sofa in Edinburgh, it was a great place to drop in and read, assuming of course that the sofa was empty. Invariably it was not, in which case the chances are you would find yourself chatting away to a Canongate author or two. There was a daily program of readings. At 5:30 authors would appear to read from their favourite writers. There was complimentary cake and wine. Most importantly every book in the shop was discounted. £10 for hardback, £5 paperback. Up to this point I had been very controlled in my purchases, but I transformed into one of the 40 thieves on crossing the threshold …. well, not quite. I did pay for my plunder before stepping out again!
2) Book Sculptures
We all like a good mystery and someone is taking a lot of trouble to create the most intricate book sculptures, leaving them quite anonymously in public places. They have been popping up all over Edinburgh this year with two more were left in Charlotte Square this month.
3) A Very Special Book Group
Leipzigburgh (the mini-German literature festival in Edinburgh) continued into the second week. As I was waiting in signing queue at one event, a lady from the Goethe Institute, who had seen me at previous German literature events, handed me a leaflet. You’re obviously interested in German, she said, why don’t you come an learn the language with us? But I speak German, I replied. At which point the conversation switched and within two minutes I was invited to the book group with Judith Hermann herself, scheduled to follow the signing. The irony is that it was the only German fiction I hadn’t read prior to the festival and so I was a rather silent participant at the group. Still I was delighted to be able to follow along. Actually that’s an understatement. I was on cloud nine!