Friday, 27 April 2012

D&G Literature Development Forum

It is a perfect spring morning in Moffat - pictured above: the old mill leat looking west along Burnside and (top) birch trees on the leat. Yesterday was the first meeting at Gracefield, Dumfries of the Literature Development Forum. There were thirteen of us round the table, representing Wigtown Book Festival, CABN (the support organisation for creatives in D&G), the four arts hubs, The Bakehouse, Moathouse Brae, Moffat Book Events, the University of Glasgow's Crichton Campus and CatStrand. The forum will be a regular (we're not sure yet how frequently)opportunity to meet, to receive information, exchange it and generate synergy between our component parts. One early fruit of our networking, I hope, will be a book launch event in Moffat in July, to coincide with an exhibition at The Moffat Gallery of black and white photographs of Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden in south Lanarkshire - the book is about an artist who wove clothes out of grass with a poem by Chrys Salt of The Bakehouse. I was also given a reading tip by David Borthwick (representing the University of Glasgow literature and creative writing): Robert Pogue Harrison's Gardens - an essay on the human condition. I read and enjoyed Pogue Harrison's Forests - the shadow of civilization when it came out some years ago. My reading list for my holiday was a mixed success. Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers was quite literally like reading a railway timetable, the plot turning entirely on a dreary catalogue of calculations about whether any of the five suspects could have travelled on various branch line trains; the new biography of Wittgenstein aroused in me three quarters of the way through a rebellious refusal to find out any more about this tortured man who could not seem to find peace or fulfillment however much he tossed and turned and gave away. However - and this is a crucial 'but' - I do think he was onto something when he said that there were events and emotions where words fail, and in these circumstances 'one must remain silent'. Ray Monk's biography of Becket, in my view, is not particularly well written. Andrew Wheatcroft's 'The Enemy At The Gate' is so packed with information that I could only manage it in bite-sized chunks washed down with lighter stuff. I started my Anne Tyler download (I was reading everything on Kindle) Back When We Were Grownups and found the scene set, of a family at odds for various familiar - even understandable - reasons too much like real life for relaxation. The first page of the Norwegian thriller, Per Petterson's To Siberia did not grip me possibly because of poor translation. I came to Kathleen Jamies Sightlines late in my travels, but when I did, I was rewarded by her gentle humour and vivid descriptions of her interesting adventures in unexpected places such as the whale room of Bergen's Museum. As I said at the beginning, it is a perfect spring morning here in Moffat: blue sky, no wind etc so I will get myself out and about now.

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