The Festivals Tour has segued seamlessly into the Book Promotion Tour, and as I sit here, like Orwell’s stereotype of the book reviewer, dressing gown et al, it’s certainly been a delightful whirlwind. The best event so far has been a talk I gave, chaired by Andrew Crumey (the novelist and former literary editor, the Ecclestone to my Tennant), in Scott’s library in Abbotsford. Reading about him in his own place was eerie and moving, and the more we discussed him, the more I wish I could write more about him. Such as: Scott’s infantile polio; treated in Edinburgh by James Graham, who used the cutting edge technology of galvanic batteries and then treated by his uncle’s staff at Sandyknowe in the Borders with the traditional method of wrapping a lamb’s caul. As with so much of Scott, the technologically innovatory and the folkloric are melded into one. Then I wrote a restaurant review – the brilliant Classroom in Nairn – and an opinion piece for the paper. Reading through the comments posted by “readers” afterwards really makes me despair for Scotland’s much-vaunted education system. Egregious misreading is rampant – one poster accuses me of claiming Scotland had no history before 1814, which I don’t (I claim it had a different image abroad) – and goes on tell me to “stick my book”, before posting again saying he, cue dramatic music, will check the index to see if I discuss Malachi Malagrowther. Don’t even bother picking it up, if you’re reading this: I do, and I’ve actually read it. It doesn’t say what you think it does. “We had better remain in union with England, even at the risk of becoming a subordinate species of Northumberland… than remedy ourselves by even hinting the possibility of a rupture” – this, apparently, is what Scott wrote when “when penning his political opinions rather than the lip service payed [sic] to the British union”.
Ach well, it at least convinces me my review of Clay Shirky’s new paean to the digital future, with its sometimes naive reliance on the wisdom of crowds, wasn’t too harsh after all.
Mrs McS came back from Devon, full of a new combination of literary theory and natural horsemanship, and I spent a day with my nephews, which was a joy. I sauntered along to the launch of Anon 7, where, for almost the first time ever, I was clearly in the top 10% in terms of age in the room. Sic transit and all that. But it was a real relief to be at a literary event that was actually being attended by the young. Yesterday was a day without books altogether, as Mrs McS and I headed off to Comrie and walked around the Devil’s Cauldron. He wasn’t in.