Full credit to Amy for the inspiration!
I was very sad to not have been able to make it to the Edinburgh Book Festival or the Fringe this year — especially over the past few weeks, when excited tweets from people who were there filled my timeline. At the risk of sounding dramatic, both last year and the year before those festivals were a much needed reminder of everything that makes life interesting, and I could have done with another dose of that this summer. I really want to make sure I go back next year.
However, I did my best to make up for not being there by filling late August and early September with exciting bookish events. I’ve already told you about Zadie Smith in a church; what I didn’t tell you about was Neil Gaiman in a cathedral (yes, again. Please don’t judge me). There are some lovely pictures of the event here. I didn’t stay for the signing this time around because I’d already had my book signed in June, but I really enjoyed his talk and the Q&A session. And the readings were perhaps the highlight — especially the one from Fortunately, the Milk, which made the book come to life for me in a way it hadn’t when I read it (more on this if I ever get around to writing about it). I think I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t had much luck with audiobooks to date; I suspect that picking up some one of the ones Neil Gaiman narrates would be a sure way of getting around that.
Then yesterday I went back to that very same cathedral to see Margaret Atwood celebrate the release of MaddAddam, with bats aplenty flying overhead. I’m going to spare you a full post about it for two reasons: one, much as I enjoyed it, the event was slightly wasted on me because I’ve yet to start the Oryx and Crake trilogy (I know, I know); two, I feel that the way I do event recaps has become really repetitive and stale, and sadly I don’t yet have any bright ideas on how to make it less boring.
Having said that, here are some of the highlights: Atwood reading Seamus Heaney’s “Stern” as a tribute; Atwood singing (!) the hymn “We Praise the Tiny Perfect Moles” from the book; Atwood asking for a round of applause for public libraries; Atwood recommending Ursula Le Guin’s novels (“She writes the best dragons ever”); and Atwood being her wry, cheerfully sarcastic self when answering audience questions. Although she always remained friendly, she came across as someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I love that she answered the question “What message do you want readers to take away from your books?” in a way that gentle deconstructs the assumptions behind it (as some of you might remember, this is a huge pet peeve of mine). She said that if she was interested in messages, she’d hire a billboard instead of writing a whole novel. Books aren’t messages — they’re the experience of reading them. You can’t tell readers what to take away from a book because a reader is to a book what a violinist is to a music score. Both an unread book and an unperformed musical piece are merely marks on a page, until someone comes along and brings them to life through the collaborative act of interpretation. As a writer, you can’t expect to control that process.
To conclude my impromptu book festival, next week I’m going to London for an event celebrating the publication of Patrick Ness’ More Than This, where there will apparently be mini-cupcakes. I promise photographic evidence.
I never got around to reviewing Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, but I wanted you to know that I love it a lot. This piece explains some of the reasons why. (Also, I should go back to Y: The Last Man and actually finish the series, right?)
Speaking of awesome comics I never reviewed, are my fellow Avatar: The Last Airbender fans reading Gene Luen Yang’s The Search? It has all the Zuko and Aang fun times you could ever hope for, plus it reassures readers that Azula does not in fact remain tied in a patio to this very day.
Be still my heart.
On a related note, I may or may not have celebrated getting my first full-time pay check by ordering this. Judge me not, Internet!
Is the approach of Autumn putting you in the mood for campus novels? If so, here’s a list for you. Seeing My Education in there reminded me that I really, really ought to write about it. It’s still going around in my head all these weeks later, and it would be a pity not to have a record of that.
Terry Pratchett’s The Carpet People is being published in the US for the first time, and to celebrate the publisher has put together a Terry Pratchett appreciation tumblr and is asking fans to submit their stories.
Also, how awesome are these Discworld themed Kindle covers? The signed one is way beyond my budget, but I’m tempted by the other one.
Lastly, here’s some library lego to improve your Sunday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Be still my heart.