West Port Book Festival

Dear Readers, I will be doing a reading with Keith Ridgway on Saturday 24th November as part of this year’s West Port Book Festival. Keith Ridgway’s latest book, Hawthorn & Child, has been getting some very good reviews, and I’m looking forward to the event. I will be reading from the novel I am currently working on, so there’s also the enticing prospect of an EPIC FAIL on my part.

You should also check out the many other FREE events in the WPBF – ranging from book binding to Turing-themed collaborations – all of which are testament to the care with which the WPBF has been programmed. It is the boutique festival of boutique festivals. Come along, enjoy the events, and help support the booksellers of West Port.

Edinburgh Book Launch

Some excellent coats in Urumqi

I’ll be at Waterstones, 128 Princes St, Edinburgh, between 6-8pm on Thursday September 29th. I will be talking about my travel/politics book ‘The Tree That Bleeds’, out now from Luath Press.

Scotland China Association talk

I’ll be giving a talk to the Scotland China Association on Tuesday April 12th, mainly about what’s been happening in Xinjiang since the July 2009 riots. I was there during April last year, and will be showing photos, and maybe some video from the trip. I wont be showing this photo:

Tue 12 Apr 2011 “The Tree that Bleeds: Xinjiang after the 2009 riots”

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 7pm for 7.30pm

The Meeting House
7 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh
at the junction of Victoria Terrace and the Upper Row, just off the Royal Mile/Lawnmarket.

Festival readings

A patas monkey

I’ll be reading on the shoulders of a few distinguished folk- first with Ron Butlin, the Edinburgh Makar, and author of The Sound of My Voice and many other acclaimed books, at Wordpower at 1pm on Thursday August 12th.

Then I’ll be reading at the Golden Hour at the Forest cafe on Wednesday 25th Wednesday 18th from 8pm. Also on the bill is AL Kennedy, whose novel Day won the Costa award, and more importantly, is amazing. As in a great book that actually deserved to win. She, like Ron, is also a wonderful reader, so this should appeal to my enemies as well as my few allies: come and see my literary ass get kicked by these people.

Golden Hour reading


I’ll be reading at the Golden Hour, on Wednesday, August 19th (8 p.m. till late) at the Forest Cafe. It will be almost the same line up as on our recent European tour, which some have said was ‘the greatest triumphal procession through Europe’s capitals since Napoleon’s’ (which one, they did not specify). Exit polls for the audience showed that amongst the single people who attended, 63.2% were taken home by someone who cared for them very much.

So if were not there, and were not kissed, please, for your own good, come along.

Readers / Writers:

Jen Hadfield – a remarkably original and inventive poet who recently won the TS Eliot prize.


Ryan Van Winkle – poems & stories from the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library.


Ericka Duffy – hot new prose from her hot new chapbook called The Succubus!


Jason Morton – stories that can eat bricks.


Jane Flett – seamstress of most fetching stories.

Music / Song Writers:

Billy Liar – Acoustic + infectious punk.


Jed Milroy – singer songwriter and hunter finally back from the Woods.


Withered Hand – intense, eccentric, bittersweet and very wry original songs.


Jonny Berliner – Joyus songs about crustacaens, exhaustion, and gluecose.


The Black Diamond Express – a rocking, hell-playing, old time string band.

Visual Amazement:

Paper Cinema and Kora

A cast of hand-drawn marionettes are magically brought to life. This is what happens at the accidental meeting of inkblots, photocopies, cardboard, angle-poise lamps, the occasional table, video technology, a laptop and a banana box.

Drowned in Sound


The tour diary for The Golden Hour European Tour is up at Drowned In Sound along with photos and video (which apparently features me on a swing). Many thanks to the Scottish Arts Council for funding the trip, and to the many venues that hosted us, in particular Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, where Sylvia and Hilary did so much to make the night a riotous success.

The Golden Hour Tour


Yes, it is spring, and we at Forest Publications have made a new book. The Golden Hour Book Vol. 2 is a collection of songs, poems and stories from some of the horribly talented people that have performed at The Golden Hour, the Forest cafe’s monthly cabaret night (I too have been guilty of this, reservations about readings notwithstanding). Due to the infinite largesse of the Scottish Arts Council, we are able to go to a number of impossibly glamorous places to promote the book:

29 April – Amsterdam, Cafe Sappho – Vijzelstraat 103 1017 HH (+31 6 17140296). 3 Euros Entry + Free Stolen Stories Book! 8pm – Late

2 May – Berlin – Studio54, Oranienburger 54 at Tacheles – 3 Euros Entry + Free Stolen Stories Book! 9Pm – Late.

4 May – Paris – Shakespeare and Co – Paris – 37, Rue Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France‎ – 01 43 25 40 93‎ – Free! 7pm

5 May – London – The Camden Head – 100 Camden High Street, (020 7485 4019) – ‎ 8pm – £3 Entry + Free Stolen Stories Book! 8pm – 11pm

6 May- Cambridge CB2- 5/7 Norfolk Street, Cambridge £3 Entry + Free Stolen Stories Book! 8pm – 11pm

If you’re in these neighbourhoods, or know anyone who is, tell them about it and afterwards, they’ll look at you in wonder. This will be especially effective for people you’ve always had a crush on. On our previous tour, the rate of couplings increased by 23% in each of the cities we visited (a figure which of course excludes any hotness on our part. Or parts).

Death to the oral tradition


Philip Larkin on the problems with poetry readings (from the Paris Review Interviews Vol. 2):

“Hearing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much- the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, taking it in properly; hearing it means you’re dragged along at the speaker’s own rate, missing things, not taking it in, confusing there and their and things like that. And the speaker may interpose his own personality between you and the poem, for better or worse. For that matter, so may the audience… I think poetry readings grew up on a false analogy with music: the text is the score that doesn’t come to life until it is performed. It’s false because people can read words, whereas they can’t read music. When you write a poem, you put everything into it that’s needed: the reader should hear it just as clearly as if you were in the room saying it to him. And of course, this fashion for poetry readings has led to a kind of poetry that you can understand first go: easy rhythms, easy emotions, easy syntax. I don’t think it stands up on the page.”

Whilst there are glorious exceptions to this, I am generally in agreement. The same is broadly true of prose readings, which I continue to do, but am almost always dissatisfied with. I don’t think I read badly, and maybe some people enjoy it, but the plain fact is that I don’t write stories for them to be listened to. I write them to be read. I don’t want my work to be judged on the strength of my performance. The test is whether it stands up on the page.

Stand by for more reactionary announcements.

Aye Write!


The Aye Write! Book Festival is Glasgow’s version of (or answer to) the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the main differences between the two being that Aye Write! lasts for just over a week, and has a greater emphasis on local authors. Notwithstanding this, it gets some big names too: this year Alan Bennett, Robert Fisk, and Graham Swift are all attending. Oh, and so am I. And some people I know. It takes place in the Mitchell Library, which has some lovely high-ceilinged, wood-paneled rooms which it would be a pleasure to read in. We, however, will be in the café on Tuesday, March 10th, from 9-10.30 p.m.

Deutschland uber alles


If you find yourself in Berlin or Bremen in early January (which, as we know, can happen quite easily. One Jagermeister too many and one can come to deep in the Tiergarten) I, and my good friend Ryan van Winkle (who plays Dr Johnson to my Boswell) will be giving a few readings.

The first, which will involve music (and thus may, at times, approach the status of a performance), will be at Sputnik-Kino in Berlin on Sunday4th January, from around 4p.m.

The second, in Bremen, is at the KIOTO/Lagerhaus, on Tuesday 6th January at 8 p.m. It’s the launch for the 25th issue of New Leaf magazine, in which I have an unfairly long short story called ‘The Sea, The Shore,’ which is not from a work-in-progress, but from a finished-but-unpublished novel, so there.

If you can think of anyone who lives in these places, and who doesn’t hate words, tell them to come along and I’ll buy them a weissbiere. Or something.

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