Unbound: It Will Be All Write on the Night, 27 August 2012
There was an air late night celebration in the Guardian Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square. Host of the final Unbound event, comedienne and EIBF employee Sian Bevan bellowed: ‘Everything ends tonight… Can I get a whoop whoop?’ And the world’s largest book festival ended not just with a whoop but with a gleeful parlour game. Past Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardees George Anderson, Kirstin Innes and R.A. Martens entertained with what seemed to be a version of the show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ Over the previous six weeks, the trio wrote six stories inspired by narrative ‘prompts’ given by the public via Twitter or Facebook. These prompts ranged from quirky to sentimental. Readers were asked to contribute a six-line story: ‘Zookeeper missing. Distraught lion loses appetite’. Other narrative prompts consisted of questions such as ‘what would you save from a burning house?’ and ‘what is your favourite place to read’? If you are interested, the selected answers respectively were the diary of a woman’s great grandfather and in India, up a tree.
What seemed, to an outsider, like a complicated process flowed quite straightforwardly on the night with the help of Bevan’s flipchart. The six stories may have meant to be connected, but read instead as a series of vignettes. George Anderson’s ‘What Is There To Love?’ and ‘Soon Enough’ were boisterous pieces with outrageous plotlines, one of which featured a nationalist who loves his country so much he copulates with rocks. Kirstin Innes’ ‘The Dead Language’ and ‘Waking Up’ were nuanced and gentle pieces which focused on a girl who tries to uncover the history of her town. R.A. Martens penned two dystopian, sci-fi-esque stories about a county’s president who manufactures body ‘enhancements’ such as arms and tails.
The last story, however, was written on the night (hence the event’s title). Bevan asked the audience to contribute an occupation, a word and two nouns. The result was predictably irreverent: drain-counters, scunnered, pitchforks and unicorns. Quite bravely on the night, the three writers composed a slapdash piece which incorporated these words and aspects of each of their stories.
Did we witness a post-modern mode of composition or just an exercise in literary comedy? Certainly, the three writers’ delivery was more impressive than the stories produced. Anderson was an animated reader whose booming voice often rose to a crescendo. His was an intriguing contrast to Innes’ whispery and more intimate delivery. And R.A. Martens’ haughty, jesting manner of speaking suited her uptight characters. A compelling, if occasionally silly, farewell to all things literary. –