'Theatre', Jeffrey Smith / CC
Edinburgh Festival

Review: The James Plays

The stories that a nation tells to itself begin with gods and kings and heroes. As James I says, ‘I am Scotland’. And if we live in a time of no gods and precious few heroes, perhaps that’s exactly the time to start finding out where we came from. Hence the need for, and grand occasion of, the James Plays. (Read More)

'Our fiction writing' / CC

Gore Vidal’s Afterlives: A Few False Starts

For this reason, passive selling carries its own quiet satisfaction: getting a title you personally cherish into stock, knowing no-one else will bother, sticking a blurb on it and watching it sell itself reliably month after month. My first choice was always Gore Vidal’s essay collection United States. (Read More)


Review: Waiting for Godot

So, that was the effect of seeing Waiting for Godot at the Lyceum in Edinburgh. Life became Beckettized. Works of genius will do that. They reach out beyond their medium. (I picked up Naked Lunch for the first time in years, only to be accosted on the bus the same day by a total stranger, who it turned out had been a dealer: ‘What’s it about? Drugs? Oh-ho…let me tell you about drugs, man.’ And he did.) (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Film & TV

Review: Wolf Hall

Because most of us live through television, sometimes it seems that the Second World War never ended and that the Tudors still reign. Of course, the appeal of both is that they’re damn’ good stories, capable of sustaining and surviving endless reinvention. Whether they will eventually become mythical, like Robin Hood and King Arthur and Clause IV, remains to be seen. However good the current incarnations may be, you know there will be others. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels

In which the New Year begins, and the author tries to cut down

At a guesstimate, I’d say I own something upward of a thousand books, say around 1,200. That’s only 200 more than Montaigne, though I will assume the great man struggled on without the benefit of Fior, Son of the King (Scripture Union, 1981), The Windlesham/Rampton Report on ‘Death on the Rock’, or the April 1975 edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The inability to get rid of books is not uncommon, and is of long standing, to judge from Carl Spitzweg’s painting The Bookworm, in which the eponymous figure is not only confronted with more volumes than he’s ever going to read, but more than he can physically handle. (Read More)

'Scottish Parliament' / Andrew Cowan / CC

Paradise postponed

It’s the scatter-gun approach of psychics the world over. Name all the possibilities, and let the mark’s reaction guide you to the correct answer.

Thus, at the beginning of the referendum campaign, I asserted with all the unwarranted confidence of an English Tory, in a long-prepared lecture, to anyone careless enough to ask, that support for independence would not rise much above the 30% it had consistently polled in the previous thirty years. By the end, I was suffering from a serious bout of electionitis and beginning to think that we (the Yessers – gissa joab) might actually win. (Read More)