The Saltire Society is delighted that our next guest speaker will be James Robertson, one of Scotland’s best-loved writers. He is the author of five novels, The Professor of Truth, And the Land Lay Still, The Testament of Gideon Mack, Joseph Knight and The Fanatic. The Testament of Gideon Mack was longlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize and selected for Richard and Judy’s Book Club the following year. Joseph Knight was the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year in 2003 and And the Land Lay Still received the same prize in 2010.
In 2013, James Robertson embarked on an unusual project: he wrote a story every day, each exactly 365 words long. A year later, on a daily basis, the stories were published online before being collected into a single book. The blurb tells us that “some draw on elements of ancient myth and legend, others are outtakes from Scottish history and folklore; there are squibs and satires, songs and ballads in disguise, fairytales, stories inspired by dreams or in the form of interviews, and personal memories and observations. Underpinning all of them are vital questions: Who are we? What are we doing here? What happens next?”
The title of his Arran talk will be ‘Stones and Stories’. Those who have read And the Land Lay Still will recall that, interwoven between the various stories is the parable of a homeless man walking the land, passing stones on to people. It’s an ingenious way of connecting characters and generations but also a metaphor for storytelling itself, an act that links the land with the culture, myth with history.
The stones refer to the ancient standing stones in the landscape as well as pebbles that cause ripples in a stream. To quote Robertson himself: “These stones inform the landscape but we don’t know where they came from or what they mean. I find that fascinating.” His talk about stones and stories will undoubtedly be equally fascinating. The talk will be in Arran High School Theatre on Wednesday 23rd October at 7.30 pm.
With many thanks to Anne Bruce for contributing this preview.