September 29, 2008

The Browser: Socks, Books, Rock’N’Roll – and Jazz, Actually

By Stuart Kelly

This week has been pretty un-literary. The main activities in Browser Towers involved preparing for a 10-day stint down at Wigtown for the Stena Line Wigtown Book Festival. Although this did involve a fair whack of reading (Mrs Browser seems to have read pretty much the entirety of Scottish Crime Fiction), it has mostly involved figuring out how many pairs of socks I'll need, and finding the optimum shirts to suits combination to avoid clashes - at one point I was chastised for "looking like an amateur jazz musician".

The festival itself isn't only about books either. There are Thetre de Becherel Art'Comedia and Last Word productions tonight, Messiaen tomorrow at Wigtown Church, an Irish film season, Kinetic Poetry (think mobile sculpture involving words), Andy Goldsworthy on film, Scottish Opera's Merry Widow next Saturday and even a football match a week today. Socks or no socks, you won't catch me on the pitch.

Pop will read itself

To continue the un-literary theme, which bookish heart was not gladdened at the news that Kelly Osbourne (age 23) is, like her mother Sharon, to pen her autobiography? It will, apparently, be "tell-all" - though I shudder to think exactly what might be left to tell after a lifetime on reality TV and tabloid snaps. In equally uplifting news, Kerry Katona, the bankrupt erstwhile Atomic Kitten (Radioactive Moggy?) is to write a "tell-all" portrait of her former friend, Jordan.

No doubt we can all look forward to Gary Barlow's biography of Robbie Williams and Dick and Dom on Ant and Dec as celebrity publishing hurtles towards self-parody.

Glass half full of Gray areas

Biography is a tricky business, especially if the subject of your book is still alive, and decides to review it. Just such a misfortune befell Rodge Glass - or Roger as Alasdair Gray calls him over his "secretary's biography" of Gray. Apart from "many mistakes" and "wee errors", Gray takes Glass, below, to task over the claim that he remarried on the rebound: "daft", according to Gray. Furthermore, Gray rues that he "should ever have casually gossiped about my first marriage when depressed by the funerals of friends". Glass has subsequently said there were "no fisticuffs" - given that Gray is 73, I should hope not.

Make way Motion, here comes Felix

Call off the search! A book of poems by Felix Dennis who famously claimed to be a murderer and then retracted his statement, has landed on my desk. Flicking through it, I think he should be made poet laureate immediately. His verse is as sententious, mimsy and old-fashioned as anything by Shadwell, Whitehead or Pye.

Farewell to a fine poet

I was saddened to learn of the death of Duncan Glen, a fine poet, magazine publisher and a man whose love of all aspects of books - type, design, print, margin and colophon - was infectious and inspiring. His Collected Works are still available from Akros, and his anthology, Fringe Of Gold, is a classic of its kind.

White House blues

Publisher Transworld is rushing out Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife. Originally supposed to appear in the New Year, it's been moved forward so that the English audience can enjoy this tale of a principled First Lady struggling to understand why her husband has embroiled America in an unwinnable Middle East conflict, before their real life counterparts leave the White House. But ca' canny: according to the New York Times, the fictional First Lady becomes "a sock puppet for the author's own views on the unhappy tenure of the Bush administration". The sequel might be more interesting.

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