Saltire Society set for Stones and Stories

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The Isle of Arran Saltire Society will welcome writer James Robertson as their guest speaker next week when he delivers a talk called Stones and Stories.

One of Scotland’s best-loved writers, James Robertson’s five novels mark him out as one of Scotland’s major contemporary authors – 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 long-listed for the 2006 Man Booker Prize and selected for Richard and Judy’s Book Club the following year. Joseph Knight won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year in 2003 and And the Land Lay Still received the same prize in 2010.

James Robertson’s latest project is an unusual one: in 2013, 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 description of the book says: ‘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, fairy tales, 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?’

Suitably the title of the Arran talk will be Stones and Stories and readers of And the Land Lay Still will remember that, interwoven between the various stories is the parable of a homeless man walking the land, passing stones on to people. Not only is this an ingenious method of connecting characters and generations, but also a metaphor for storytelling itself, an act that links the land with the culture and myth with history.

The stones refer to the ancient standing stones in the landscape as well as pebbles that cause ripples in a stream. On Arran, of course we are familiar with these in our landscape, especially the majestic stones on Machrie Moor. 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.’

The talk will be held in Arran High School Theatre on Wednesday October 23 at 7.30 pm. Entry is by donation and all are welcome.

James Robertson will be the guest speaker at the next meeting of the Saltire Society when he delivers a talk titled Stones and Stories. Photograph: Marianne Mitchelson. No_B42Saltire01