Rain descended on Charlotte Square however one of the things I love most about the Edinburgh International Book Festival, is that book lovers do not let the rain get them down, it just means we go into the bookshop and browse the wonderful selection of books on offer. The familiar wet floor cones were out in force. However it wasn’t long before the sun started shining again and people were back out sitting in the gardens reading.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Colm Toibin sold out event. I always love hearing him talk, he always has the audience laughing. The event was chaired by Tessa Hadley, one of the first things she said was how it was such an honour to be chairing this event as Toibin is one of only three living writers that she admires.
Toibin said many interesting things during this hour about family and his writing. He commented on how if you are not an only child you spend a vast amount of your time wishing that you were. In a way writers do this by writing a novel with an only child as this is truly their own wishful thinking. Most writers choose to write about smaller families for technical reasons, it means that characters do need end up getting lost or disappearing halfway through the book. If you have a sensible mother in your novel then her daughter can not come into her own as a young woman. That is why he writes stories with absent mother figures, it means the young woman is the readers sole focus. This is one way Toibin feels he is able to make the young heroines of the book sparkle and shine.
He then when onto talk passionately about how he feels it is a load of rubbish when a reader says they like or dislike a character. Toibin feels these characters are written by the author not to be liked or disliked but to be appreciated in a unique and different way. The Novel is an unstable form, this is why it has survived for as long as it has. Writers fool readers into liking or disliking characters through the rhythm of the novel. Toibin commented on the fact that he dislike when reader read the end of the book before they have read it and then make a moral judgement on the middle of the book. As human being we live on gossip because what else is there? This statement had the whole audience laughing.
He then went on to talk about passionately, how we as reader as missing out on good out of the blue books. We are too easy to conform to the top 10 must read books each season. Publishing houses and Amazon put pressure on readers to buy the 10 must read books. But then what happens to the excellent book that don’t make the list. They get lost in shelves and these are the true must read books every season.
Part two of EIBF Day 3 will be published later tonight and will features highlights from the Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell event last night.