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The Accelerator

24 Jan 2014

Poetry night that organisers Jem Rolls and Bram E Gieben hope will get up to speed

The Accelerator is a new Edinburgh and Glasgow performance poetry night run by Jem Rolls and Bram E Gieben. ‘We want to be the highest energy night around,’ says Rolls, describing the pair’s vision for the event. ‘We want it to be poetic, theatrical…

International line-up of poets set to attend 2014 Stanza poetry festival

21 Jan 2014

Carol Ann Duffy, Louis de Bernieres and Paul Muldoon among highlights of St Andrews festival

Dip your toe - or better still, take a swim - into the pool of words that makes up the 2014 Stanza poetry Festival in St Andrews from 5-9 March. This year, as ever, there is a great line-up of international and national poets reading their work…

Alain De Botton - The News: A User’s Manual

13 Jan 20143 stars

Engaging and thoughtful exploration of an often manipulative medium

In this engaging and thoughtful book, the popular philosopher and co-founder of London’s School of Life, Alain de Botton, turns his attention to the news in its various forms. Specifically, he seeks to question the generally accepted positions of…

Preview of 2014: 10 cultural events you won't want to miss

17 Dec 2013

Featuring the Commonwealth Games, Drake, Dark Behaviour and Only Lovers Left Alive

The big hitters Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Even if you were the ‘forget your PE kit’ sort when you were at school, there’s little chance you’ll be able to avoid getting swept up by Commonwealth fever when it hits Glasgow at the height of…

Flash Fiction: 'Lad' by Laura Lam (after Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘Girl’)

12 Dec 2013

The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories

Dinnae look weak; pit ithers doon afore they can pit ye doon; jis cause yer a lad disnae mean ye cannae help yer ma; dee the dishes if the wifey cooks; be cooler than a-biddy else; fitba is the proper sport; only toffs like golf; ye can nivver find a…

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Jonathan Lethem - Dissident Gardens

12 Dec 20135 stars

Lethem's wonderful novel makes a bittersweet attempt to reclaim political faith in a cynical age

This wonderful novel revolves around the relationship between Rose Zimmer, a communist of the pre- and post-war years who is angry that the 20th century has ‘ripped her off’, and her daughter Miriam, who feels like she has ‘older-sistered’ the 1960s…

Toby Barlow - Babayaga

27 Jan 20144 stars

Deliriously fun ride taking in fantastical exploits

In which Toby Barlow unleashes a juggernaut of a narrative and, amazingly, keeps it in complete control for 400 hugely entertaining pages. The story comprises three intertwining sets of characters in post-war Paris, and involves CIA espionage, a pair of…

Eliza Granville - Gretel and the Dark

27 Jan 20145 stars

Atmospheric historical novel likely to be one of the best books of 2014

Gretel and the Dark is an atmospheric and beautifully written historical novel told in two linked narratives. In 1890s Vienna, psychoanalyst Josef Breuer is treating a mysterious patient: found by a lunatic asylum, skeletally thin and with her head…

Marina Mander - The First True Lie

27 Jan 20144 stars

British debut is heartbreaking story leavened with humour and a quirky worldview

The First True Lie is Marina Mander’s British debut, translated from the Italian by Stephen Twilley, and we’re fortunate that such a stunning gem of a novel has reached our shores. Imagine you’re ‘half-orphan’, then your mother died: what would you do?

Valentines Day Poetry: verses for every stage of your relationship

24 Jan 2014

Poems for everything from first dates to break-ups, by Tracey S Rosenberg, William Letford and more

Step 1: The First Date 'How to Drink on the First Date' by Tracey S Rosenberg You're different. I can tell. For you I'll say: let's skip the pub entirely. I know this little place off the Links where the only drinks they serve are chocolate.

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From OkCupid to Tinder: will technology be the death of love?

23 Jan 2014

Ewan Morrison asks if dating sites and apps have doomed modern romance

This is a typical date from the not-too-distant future: a young man (K) and a young woman (A) go on a date to a café/bar. They both have smart-pads with them and share clips and messages friends have sent. Their friends are watching the live feed and…

Extract: How We Should Rule Ourselves by Alasdair Gray

22 Jan 2014

Glasgow artist and author has written several political pamphlets on home rule

As Edmund Burke is often said to have remarked, ‘all that has to happen for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’. We believe that we are a sovereign people. If we are unhappy with our present system of government in Britain, all that stops us…

Flash fiction: New writing inspired by the 2014 Scottish independence referendum

22 Jan 2014

Prose and poetry on Scottish independence by Samuel Best, Simon Williams and Harry Giles

Quilt. By Samuel Best. It was autumn when I began to dig at the edges of my garden. I’d been getting headaches for a couple of weeks and thought some peace and quiet might do some good. The doctor told me a lot of people had similar problems and…

Burns Night 2014 - events round-up

21 Jan 2014

A selection of the suppers, ceilidhs and flings held in honour of the Bard's birthday

In this year of all years, the annual celebration of the Bard of Ayrshire Robert Burns’ life takes on a different tone, surely impressing a sense of national cultural pride upon both sides of the independence debate. If you’re celebrating somewhere…

Louise Welsh recommends... Scottish Opera's Don Pasquale

21 Jan 2014

Donizetti's comic opera has been updated to the generational battles of the 1960s

Let’s play word association; ‘Comic opera?’ ‘Not funny’. The phrase ‘Comic opera’ conjures images of rude noises on the bassoon and fat ladies falling over. Don Pasquale is an old man who determines to find himself a young wife, so far so Donald McGill…

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Michelle de Kretser - Questions of Travel

21 Jan 20143 stars

An intelligent novel with a sardonic bite that will crush any clichés for the romantic traveller

Questions of Travel does exactly what it says on the tin, provoking observations and philosophical musings upon the who, what and why of travelling. Beginning in the eighties and the ensuing internet boom, the story juxtaposes two characters to convey…

Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden - Cemetery Girl: Book One

21 Jan 20143 stars

A gothic graphic novel that trips along nicely but is unlikely to satisfy older fantasy/horror fans

A girl wakes in a cemetery without knowing her name or where she comes from. All she knows is that someone is trying to kill her. Too afraid to seek help, she makes a new home in the graveyard and discovers that she can see ghosts – but this becomes the…

Sara Maitland - How to be Alone

13 Jan 20143 stars

Outlines first steps to enjoying solitude

‘Loner' has become a dirty word, serving as polite code for loser, weirdo and even potential serial killer (‘I'm not surprised they found all those bones in his back garden, he was always a loner … ’). But at the same time, we revere the solitary…

Celebrate the legacy of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, on Burns Night

7 Jan 2014

Find an event or create your own with our handy guide to Burns Suppers

It’s important, during the winter months, to keep in contact with close friends and loved ones. The cold weather and dark nights are best combatted with a mixture of food, drink and merriment, and while Christmas and Hogmanay go some way to making sure…

Bethany Ruth Anderson - Swings And Roundabouts

17 Dec 20133 stars

Anderson tackles the stigma of mental illness with a bravery rarely seen from a first novel

Boy meets girl. Manic-depressive meets body dysmorphic. Despite their personal struggles, Matt and Sarah seem perfect together. However, as they try to navigate their relationship, the odds seem against them; Matt is slowly losing his grip on…

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Top 5 winter reads, featuring Philip Pullman, Peter Høeg and Brian Selznick

12 Dec 2013

Craig Thompson's Blankets and the complete Calvin and Hobbes round out our winter reading selection

Ray Robinson’s new novel, Jawbone Lake, is ideal reading for the dark nights: a gripping, thought-provoking tale opening on the frozen landscape of its title. Here are five more recommendations for the season of ice and wonder. The Invention of Hugo…

Top 13 books of 2013

12 Dec 2013

The best books of the year, featuring Donna Tartt, Shaun Usher, Rodge Glass, Kate Atkinson and more

It’s been a great year for books – we’d pick 2,013 of our favourites if we could… Life After Life – Kate Atkinson A woman relives her life, again and again, until she gets it right – but what is ‘right’? The Hat-Stand Union – Caroline…

Fiona McFarlane - The Night Guest

12 Dec 20133 stars

A combination of suspenseful whodunit and tender portrait of an ageing relative

As widower Ruth hears the padding footsteps of a tiger prowling her living room at night, the reader is being wrong-footed. The opening pages of this début novel from Sydney’s Fiona McFarlane are full of magical realist promise; the imagined jungle…

Hamish Hamilton - Five Dials, Issue 29

12 Dec 20133 stars

A dedication to quality writing and clean design is let down by a self-consciously highbrow attitude

Offered free from London publisher Hamish Hamilton’s website, Five Dials is fashioned in the McSweeney’s mould – substantial, writerly content, clean and simple design – and is marked by quality writing that gives credibility to its tag-line: ‘Do you…

Natalie Young - Season to Taste; or How to Eat Your Husband

12 Dec 20133 stars

A macabre tale with a gruesome sense of humour but lack of pace

Natalie Young reveals an appetite for the grotesque in her new novel, a darkly comic tale about a disillusioned fiftysomething who kills her husband – then gradually cooks and eats him to hide the evidence. The murdering wife, Lizzie Prain, isn’t the…