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SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Volume 12 Issue 1 - Editorial

WHAT Edinburgh was like before the coming of the festival is hard for anyone who did not know it then to imagine. That it was smaller, less populous, darker, sootier, beerier and danker is undoubtedly true. In the years immediately after the Second World War, Britain in general was often portrayed in unflattering shades of grey. Scotland’s shade was the grey of old underwear.  Rationing was still the norm and bananas were regarded as exotic. Kenneth Tynan, visiting in 1948 on the occasion of ...
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SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

In Neverland - Tom Pow

JORGE Luis Borges once commented that it was the fate of all great literature to end up, ‘disencumbered’, as stories for children. Certainly there are few great works – folk tale, myth, Homer, Shakespeare – beyond the reach of Ladybird or of the wonderful Marcia Williams. Perhaps they all have at their heart a tale powered by strong emotions. But the opposite is also true, that many great works for children end up as works of consuming interest and great reflection for adults. And for the ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

It's Not About Her - Julie McDowall

JANICE Galloway doesn’t write about Janice Galloway – except when she does, but on those occasions the books are titled This Is Not About Me and All Made Up. In interviews she disdains the notion that authors should be at the heart of their fiction, drawing from their own life. This aversion to using her own experiences is hard to understand. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with it. Subject or plot mean little in good literature so where’s the harm in pinning a story to a real ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Body and Soul - Nick Major

In the prologue to Adventures in Human Being, Dr Gavin Francis assures us there is sense in the belief propounded by early anatomists that the ‘structure of the body mirrored the structure of the earth’. But for Francis, the relationship is not just one of microcosm and macrocosm; there is a geological truth to it: ‘we are supported by a skeleton of calcium salts, chemically similar to chalk and limestone…the contours of our skin resemble the rolling surface of the land.’ We are used to ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Cruising on the Irrawaddy - Roddy Forsyth

WE Scots can be strangely careless with our dramas. How many of us knew about the Gretna Disaster of 1915 until its centenary in May? Virtually nobody, in my experience. Yet it has been called the Titanic of British railway accidents – killing at least 227 people in a carnage involving five trains. A similar forgetfulness folded over the wreck of the Iolaire, the worst peacetime loss of life in British waters since – yes, the Titanic again. In the first minutes of New Year’s Day 1919, the ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

The SRB Interview - Debi Gliori

Debi Gliori was born in 1959 in Glasgow. She graduated from Edinburgh College of Art and worked as a freelance illustrator before publishing her first picture book, New Big Sister, in 1991. Since then she has published over seventy-five books for children of all ages. Her creation Mr. Bearwill be familiar to many who grew up in the 1990s. In 2009 she created the Bookbug, the mascot for the Scottish Book Trust’s early reading scheme. Bookbug sessions are a frequent occurrence in libraries all ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

For The Love Of Poetry - Alan Taylor

E ARLY in the 1980s I was working in the reference library on Edinburgh’s George IV Bridge. Unlike the National Library of Scotland, which is on the other side of the street, there were no gatekeepers to restrict access. Anyone who wanted to enter could, and did. The library was a haven for eccentrics, autodidacts, bampots, tramps, the time rich and the threadbare poor, and numberless scruffy and grumpy refugees from academe who, in the days before Google, had questions that urgently needed ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Pitlochry For Pleasure - Joseph Farrell

There has always been something implausible about the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, a sensation not dulled by familiarity. Sited in a small town in the Highlands, it was the realisation of a determined dream in the post-war years, perhaps the last time when grand visions for society and the arts could be realised. The theatre originated in a garage, graduated to a marquee before finding its final home in a pretty little theatre which its architects ensured would snuggle as respectfully into the ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

In Smollett's Footsteps - Iain Bamforth

THIS cannot be the south of France, (said I to myself) it must be the Highlands of Scotland!’ In Letter XII of his occasionally grumpy but entertaining Travels through France and Italy, written in Nice on December 6, 1763, Tobias Smollett, M.D., surgeon, translator of Don Quixote and author of various picaresque adventures dedicated to the doings of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle and Ferdinand Count Fathom (among others), recounts the time spent at Fréjus, ‘the Forum Julianumof the ...

Growing Old: Six Poems

Curmudgeon Douglas Dunn He is a man for whom everyone’s a trespasser. Co-existence?  He doesn’t believe in it. Give you the time of day?  Not one minute. He is happy to be a grinning contrarian. Music, he claims, gives him indigestion. He dismisses several generations Including most members of his own. He is a virtuoso concert pessimist Who even disagrees with his own agreements. He is the exact opposite of mellow. You never see him sitting in the sun.  And as for ‘foreigners’ — oh-ho! — He is ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

In Cold Blood - David Robinson

ODD, isn’t it, how friendships form? Take Duane West and me. We live on different continents, have only spent six hours in each other’s company eight years ago, and might never meet again. Yet every month or so we exchange emails. He’ll tell me about life in Garden City, Kansas, and I keep him posted with the latest news from Scotland. It helps that he’s a politics junkie. In the time I’ve known Duane, he has taught himself to play the piano, and written and staged a musical. He has collected ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Dam Builders - Rosemary Goring

THE beaver, writes Jim Crumley, ‘is the animal that gives rodents a good name’. It’s an arresting comment from one of the country’s best known and most prolific nature writers, who has turned his attention to countless birds and animals over the years, from foxes, owls and badgers to swans, eagles and the wolf. His latest book, Nature’s Architect, is a paean to the four-legged lumberjack, but one could easily imagine him moving next to a colourful study of field mice, voles, squirrels or rats and ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

An Inspector Calls - Ronald Frame

PENGUIN is currently republishing the great Belgian-born novelist Georges Simenon (1903-89), for which it is to be commended. Every so often Simenon (in English translation) has been around, before again passing out of circulation for a while. In France he continues to blaze among the Pleiades, the Immortals of literature. At one point he must have been the best-selling author in the world. Chandler and Hammett called him their favourite crime writer. Here, however, we need our collective ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

SRB Diary: Our Friends In The North - Adrian Searle

UNTIL four years ago, when I accidently became a publisher, I was rather poorly travelled. Having worked continuously since graduating at 20, I missed out on the itinerant years of my peers. I never ever made it to Ibiza or Phuket; Arbroath and Plockton were as far as my hedonism extended. Publishing is an international business and it’s incumbent on those holding the rights to books to seek deals with other publishers across the world, to maximise revenues for their authors and themselves. There’s ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Grecian 2015 - Brian Morton

NOT many critical essays stick in the mind on the basis of title only, but ‘Sheherazade runs out of plots, keeps on talking – the king, intrigued, listens’ is one of them. Philip Stevick’s 1973 Tri-Quarterly article was a manifesto of the new ‘fabulatory’ fiction and criticism of the decade, committed to the notion that in the postmodern realm narrative generated its own significance and its own morality, without reference to external consequence or ends, or even the depiction of character in the old ...
SRB VOL 11 ISS 1

Bombing Belfast - Ian S. Wood

ONE of the late Brian Moore’s many fine novels was The Emperor of Ice Cream, published in 1965. It is a coming of age story whose young hero, Gavin Burke, the son of a middle class and Catholic Belfast family, decides, after the outbreak of war in 1939 to do his bit for Britain’s cause by joining the Air Raid Precaution Service. He reckons however without the reaction of some of his close relatives. On arriving home in his ARP uniform he is at once berated by an aunt who is having tea with ...

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