28/11/2013 Newsnight Scotland


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beings. That is nasty. I did think that is a fair reading of his


speech. That is what people hope he said but it is not a fair reading of


what he said. Thank you all very much indeed.


Newsnight Scotland, what is the best Scottish novel written in the last


50 years? We will reveal all and ask whether it really matters if fewer


and fewer of us are reading any books at all. We will discuss that


with Christopher Brookmyre and Irvine Welsh among others. If you


are fed up with a high pressure political debate, pause for a


moment, sit down and read a good book. But not now, please! Thousands


of readers have just voted for their choice of the best Scottish novel of


the last 50 years. We will announce the winner in a


moment. But first Huw Williams has this report. So what is the Scottish


novel? The Scottish Book Trust decided it is a book written here or


by an author born or who now lives in Scotland. These are our top ten


favourite titles as voted by nearly 9000 people from a long list of 50


contenders written over the past 50 years. This is where I'll live. My


family. My mum and dad run the shop. This is my brother's bedroom. Katie


Morag first delivered the mail back in 1984, but stories of life on this


fictional isle off the West Coast continued to captivate generations


of children. Hello! These youngsters met her creator at the BBC in


Glasgow today. There was not much enthusiasm for the idea of a beauty


parade of books here. In this particular poll there are no


children's books. It is just adult books. I wonder at that. I do have


that kind of stigma that I do actually do grown-up books that they


are never commented on. It is just children's books. I have come to


meet some students of Scottish literature at the University of


Glasgow. I am delighted that there is science fiction there. Iain M


Banks is probably my favourite Scottish author and I am delighted


that he is in the list. Why is that important? The way that he writes


science fiction is how it should be written. He has no careful scale. He


creates a fantastic world where you can do or see anything but he


manages to keep tension and drama in paradise, where you think it would


not exist. I am delighted he is on the list. Anything strike you about


the list, anything that is there or not there? I am not surprised


Trainspotting did so well. I think it has become one of those books


totally synonymous with Scottish identity. Whether or not that is a


good thing or a bad thing is not relevant. I think Scots identify


with the voice in Trainspotting and many people view it as Scotland


being encompassed by Trainspotting. No doubt the film being so popular


was something to do with it as well. Only one woman on the list. Is that


a surprise? Tricky To Keep Breathing is very good. Psychological but very


good. I don't know if other writers have fallen out of the 50 year


timeline, like Muriel Spark. If you go back a bit further back there are


many good women. I think more women could have made the list but it


could be because more women write poetry, like Liz Lochhead and


Kathleen Jamie for example. They could have made the list if it was a


poetry one, no doubt. What does the poll and the books that made it into


the top ten tell us about the state of literature in Scotland today? I


think writers take Scotland seriously and Scotland takes its


writers seriously, as it should, looking at the legacy of Scottish


writing, especially in the last 50 years, which this legacy has


covered. We have seen a flourishing of talent. Not just fiction but


academic writing, poetry, and let's not forget playwrights as well. So


it must be boomtime for publishers, two. They are two very different


things. Writing always continues. Writers inspire writers, books


inspired books, poets inspire poets, but publishing is a very


different beast. We see publishing model is changing. Next week


Mainstream is having its closing party. Things are changing. There


are new publishers in Scotland like Cargo and Freight, but publishing is


much more perilous than writing. Only one of these ten titles can be


the ultimate winner, so which one will it be? If you are sitting


comfortably, we will tell you in a moment.


I am joined in the studio by Marc Lambert, Chief executive of the


Scottish Book Trust. We are on tenterhooks. We are such cheapskates


that we do not have an envelope for you to pull out a card! We will use


our imagination, literary spirit. Who won? Trainspotting came out top,


so it is the overall winner. 9000 votes cast from 57 different


countries, which is pretty remarkable. This was an internet


thing where anyone could join in? Correct. It is fantastic that people


from 57 countries were voting for their favourite Scottish book. Hey


presto we can talk to Irvine Welsh because he is on the line from


Chicago. Congratulations. Thank you. Why do you think Trainspotting hit


the mark with people in the world in general in the way that most novels


just don't? It is almost impossible for me to answer that question. A


fine new, I would replicate that formula. -- if I knew. You write the


books that you want to write and anything that happens afterwards is


not something you have any control over. I think any books that has


very strong characters, that people can instantly identify with, that is


what I hear everywhere I go, whether it is in South America, the United


States or South Africa or Australia, Russia, Eastern Europe. Everybody


says they recognise Renton, Spud, and Sick Boy. They are archetypes.


They recognise the flush of youth. Like catcher in the Rye. That time


when everything is possible. If you mess up it does not matter that much


because you get second and third chances. I would say that is the


appeal but I really don't know. OK. We have Christopher Brookmyre, too.


Don't look downhearted because your book was number five, One Fine Day


In The Middle Of The Night. Title Normal Top Six Finish. Do You Think


There Is Any Point To This Sort Of Exercise? One Of The Immediate


Successes -- one of the immediate successes is generating publicity.


We are also joined by Professor Linda Dryden from the University of


Edinburgh. Do you think there is any point in this sort of exercise? He


is right because it has got us talking about books, which is always


a good thing, and it makes us concentrate on what is happening in


Scotland in the book trade, which is a good thing. Would you like to have


a stab at telling Irvine Welsh what he himself says he does not know,


quite Trainspotting is such a goer? I was thinking about that. I thought


the young people on earlier were interesting because they recognised


Trainspotting as a great book. I think it appeals not just to adults


but young people as well. They find something in that book that they can


identify with. The subject matter is terrific anyway, which is part of


it. You all have a problem. I think I am right in saying that reading


rates are going down. That is true. The latest survey of literacy from


the Scottish Government, published in May, shows that Scottish


teenagers and Scottish children as they progress through school are


losing their enthusiasm for reading. That is a thing we have to take


seriously. I wonder, Christopher Brookmyre, our youngsters not


reading or are they just not reading books? I am conscious of the fact


that we live in an era where young people communicate via the written


word anyway that they did not 20 years ago. Perhaps, MA seem


surprising, that they are therefore resistant to reading fiction or for


pleasure but it may simply be that when it gets to the end of the


school day, or the end of their other activities, the notion of


reading more prose is unattractive. Irvine Welsh, youngsters read in a


different way perhaps and perhaps maybe writers like yourselves and


others, it is something you have to come to terms with, perhaps read


shorter verse. Again, I don't either. I think that one of the


interesting things now, you have this tremendous plethora of, this


already end of courses and Master of fine arts programmes and people want


to be writers. They don't necessarily want to read. When I go


and talk to people, it is like surprising how many people you meet


that are actually doing postgraduate courses and wanting to be writers


but they have not actually read. Some of the novelty would probably


describe as indispensable. So that is a kind of interesting phenomenon,


we have less readers but more writers. Or more people wanting to


be writers. Why is that? There must be an incredible dispersion of what


was once a fairly unified industry, people self publish on the


Internet, OK, much of it might be rubbish but some of it has become


good and commercially successful. That is done for the publishing


industry but everything is much more dispersed. Yes, it is. I don't know


that we are not reading as much as we used to. Some of the figures that


the Scottish Book Trust published an interesting and in Scotland, it


seems there is more reading taking place than other parts of the UK. If


you like, the Harry Potter books, they do a lot for children's


literacy and getting children reading. Candles, whether you like


or don't like them... -- Kindles. Should we give it a virtual prize?


That is unanimous. Sorry. I see a lot of people that reading on


Kindles and I see that as a good end. In the sense that they are


reading. -- I see that as a good thing. There is lots of stuff


available on the Internet to read. People might not read books but they


go and read articles on the Internet. They have got access to


the printed word and probably use the printed word compared to 20


years ago, when youngsters might spend four hours in front of a


television, now they are spending four hours on the computer and the


art in front of text. That is true but it also is important what text


they are in front of and while it is very true to say that a lot of


children are reading and writing more than they would have 20 years


ago because of social media and because they are organising their


lives and constructing their personas online, if you like, there


is not any substitute to actual engagement with a fantastic novel.


Whether that is on a computer, a Kindle or in printed format, it does


not matter, what matters is engagement with books. Children are


inclined to associate text with communication or work and they are


not encouraged enough to associate the written word with entertainment.


They do not categorise... When I grew up I categorised the fiction I


was reading alongside movies, television, pop music, I saw it as


part of popular culture, one of the things I looks for to spend my free


time on. That is one of the things that is missing now. -- one of the


things I looked for. Tell me if you think I am wrong, but it strikes me


that we are now in an age when perhaps the whole future of the


novel is at stake. There probably is not as much experimentation with the


form of the novel and what a novel should be as there was in the 1960s.


I don't know. I dispute that. There is a lot of great experimental


stuff. If you look at, one of the great books, it was not on the list,


it probably should have, was a book that came out last year or the year


before last called Tales from the Mall die UN Morrison. It was a very


innovative experimental book. -- by Ewan Morrison. He used lists of


websites that you keep into. It was exploring the story. And so there is


innovative work. It just is not necessarily embraced are accepted.


All right. Unfortunately, you just pre-empted my next question. I was


going to ask you, ask all of you, you are not allowed to say one of


your own books or one of Christopher's. If there is a book


that you think, other than the one you have just mentioned, should have


been on that list of 50 books, that has been published in the last 50


years, what should it be? I think there is quite a few I would love to


have seen. I think it is sad that a writer of James Kelman's stature, I


know he is not everyone's cup of tea, he has contributed so much to


Scottish writing. I would have loved it to have seen that one of his


books, probably A Disaffection, on the list. I am delighted William


McIlvanney and Alistair Gray made it onto the list. I think that there


are other books. Alan Warner is, his book, The Man Who Walks is one of my


favourite Scottish novels. You pick one book from everybody, you choose


Iain Banks because he writes in a John and he is also a mainstream


writer, but what is interesting is that a lot of books have become the


first novel, a lot of books selected have been the first novel of a


writer. Like myself and Alistair Gray and Alan Warner. You don't want


to have more than one, it kind of splits the ticket, basically, in


terms of the book. I think that is interesting, the way that it tells


you something about the novel, especially if you are not writing


genre fiction. William McIlvanney's novel Doherty was a Scottish novel


as well. It is accepted that you have to make... I am sorry to cut


across you, but I want to get the first choice from everyone else. We


are almost out of time. Linda Dryden. I think James Robertson, his


novel And The Land Lay Still Sent In Smack. -- And The Land Lay Still. I


would suggest a novel by Iain Banks. And so would I. One of his books has


the greatest twist I have ever read. Thank you all very much indeed.


Let's have a look at tomorrow's papers. The Guardian, bank puts


brakes on fear of house price bubble. The independent, there we


have it, the new MI6 connection. That is all from me. Join Gary on


Monday for a special debate on Scottish media. Until then, good


night. Hello. Quite a change for our


weather on Friday, brighter and breezy for many. Strong winds very


much a feature across Scotland, sunny spells and scattered showers.


The cloud being chased away by the strength of that wind, sunny spells


and scattered showers likely across England and Wales into the


afternoon. Most frequent to the north and west of the Pennines,


sheltered eastern areas should do better with some sunshine, it will


feel pleasant but add on the strength of the winds, Devon or 10


degrees, you will need an extra layer. A few showers clearing the


south coast. -- seven or 10 degrees. A few isolated showers throughout


the afternoon across the North Devon coastline and through much of Wales.


As for Northern Ireland, sunny spells and just a few showers to the


coastline, further inland it should be largely dry but it will feel


quite cold because of that strong north-westerly wind and if you get


caught in the rash of showers across the Western Isles, here it will feel


disappointing. Some of them


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