I gave my first talk about the book, on Tuesday night, to about 60 people at a meeting of the Grange Association. I focussed on some of the real personalities who figure in An Edinburgh Suicide and discussed the challenges and choices to be made in incorporating real figures into a fictional work. The audience were receptive- and not just the several friends who were kind enough to attend!
The novel in fact sprang from my sense of injustice of how Hugh Miller used versions of the lives of his workingmen mates on the building site to further his views on the unsuitability of the vote for the working man. He especially focussed on a fellow named Cha, who he portrays as an intelligent brute. I discovered that Cha had in fact taken Hugh to the theatre and lent him books. This led to my portrayal of what happens in the First Part of the novel, The Unenlightened.
I would be happy to hear about what people think of my treatment of the characters, real and unreal in the novel. Please be kind!
Can you make poetry or other forms of literature from stones? At this year’s Portobello Book Festival, an event entitled, SPEAKING TO US FROM THE PAST, chaired by Jim Gilchrist and featuring poet and science writer, Larissa Reid and palaeontologist Elsa Panciroli, demonstrated that indeed you can- if you are Hugh Miller or someone with the technical knowledge and linguistic deftness of the two speakers. I really enjoyed the session and meeting people from the Friends of Hugh Miller, and other attendees such as Anna, who like me, has been captivated by Hugh, and is writing her own novel concerning him.
When people talk about Hugh Miller they often compare him to David Attenborough. There is a great deal of truth in this in terms of his contemporary reach and the way both appeal to our intelligence and our heart. But unlike other “nature writers” or even botanists or zoologists, Hugh Miller was often writing about stones. And he made them come alive!
Brian McLaughlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am fascinated by fiction and fictions, and not just literary ones but all the stories we are told or tell ourselves to make sense of the world and our place in it, by the songs we sing, the poems we recite, the paintings we admire. My novel mixes historical events and personalities with imagined scenes, motives and acts. It also interweaves a web of allusions which I hope people have fun untangling but which suggest just how much of what we see and how we feel is the result of others’ fabrications. In recent years, especially in France and in Spain, several magnificent novels have appeared merging history with fiction. I worry sometimes that this is dangerous and leads to the defence of phrases such as 'MY truth’. This debate is as least as old as Plato. So in this blog, while I invite everyone to ask questions about the book, to make comments about its subjects, I also hope we can widen the discussion to other works and to whether, as one of the chapter titles says, fiction can be “truer than truth”.