Friday, 22 April 2011

Was Pope Innocent really innocent?

When Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti – Italian husband-and-wife writers - wrote their novel Imprimatur they expected it would ruffle some feathers. It did, after all, claim that a Pope had bankrolled a Protestant King against a Catholic King. What they didn’t expect was for their book to become unavailable in their home country of Italy and a widespread media blackout on coverage.

Whilst the Vatican denied any involvement, it now looks as if it’s not just Rita and Francesco who have fallen out of favour. The Pope in question, Blessed Innocent XI, has been dug up so another Pope can be buried in this tomb.
Imprimatur by Monaldi and Sorti

Speaking to the Irish newspaper, The Herald, Francesco said "Because of our book Innocent XI has lost his reputation of sanctity. He betrayed the Catholic Church. It has never happened before that the body of a Pope has been removed to make way for another Pope, especially when both have been beatified. He was supposed to be celebrated, not removed. And especially because this year is the 400th centenary of his birth."

Pope Innocent has been taken out of the Chapel of St Sebastian, near the entrance to St Peter's basilica in Rome and adjoining one of its most popular attractions, Michelangelo's statue of the Pieta. The Vatican has denied that it is giving John Paul II preferential treatment. Blessed Innocent XI had actually been considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church following the 9/11 terrorists attacks as he had been celebrated for his role in defending Europe against Islamic invasion in the 1680s.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Scott-land Long-listed for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction!

Polygon is delighted to announce that Stuart Kelly's book Scott-land: The Man Who Invented a Nation has been long-listed for the £20 000 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. The impressive long-list of eighteen titles was announced this morning, with the final shortlist of six books being announced on 14th June.

Scott-land: The Man Who Invented a Nation

Variously praised as ‘A lovely piece of work – the best book on Scott, indeed, since Edwin Muir’s Scott and Scotland' (Andrew O’Hagan), 'Very engaging, highly intelligent’ (AN Wilson) and ‘Magnificent … A fascinating book, as entertaining as it is informative' (Alexander McCall Smith), Neville Moir Polygon’s Publishing Director commented:

“We’re absolutely thrilled at this well-deserved recognition for Stuart’s intelligent fusion of biography and cultural critique. Excellent news!”

The full long-list can be seen here, and everyone at Polygon sends their congratulations to Stuart and is crossing their fingers for 14th June!

Birlinn Authors in Running for £30,000 Book Prize

Birlinn Ltd is delighted to see not one, not two, not three but four of its authors on the longlists for the 2011 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year.
Scott-land by
Stuart Kelly

Fresh from being longlisted for the 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, Stuart Kelly’s Scott-land: The Man Who Invented a Nation (Polygon) makes a well-deserved appearance on the SMIT longlist also in the Non-Fiction Category. Joint Winner of the 2010 Saltire

The History of Orkney Literature
by Simon Hall

Royal Mail Scottish First Book of the Year, The History of Orkney Literature by Simon Hall (John Donald) has been longlisted in the First Book Category.

And taking in the wider Birlinn family, author of Getting Higher Andrew Greig (Polygon) has been longlisted in the Non-Fiction category for At the Loch of the Green Corrie and Leila Aboulela – whose debut novel The Translator was published by Polygon – is longlisted in the Fiction category for her novel Lyrics Alley.

The four category winners will be announced on Thursday 16th May with the overall winner of the £30 000 prize being announced on Friday 26th August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Congratulations to all the longlisted authors, and fingers crossed for the 16th May from everyone at Birlinn, Polygon and John Donald!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Borders Book Festival Programme Launched With a Birthday!

The Borders Book Festival might have a few more years to go to catch up on today’s Birthday Boy, Rory Bremner (a Patron of the Festival), but if it’s in as fine voice and as good shape as he is at 50 it will be doing very, very well.
Rory – with special guest appearances from Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown, Peter Snow and Michael Parkinson – helped launch the programme for the four-day, 65 event festival which kicks off on 16th June in Melrose in the Scottish Borders. And, as ever, Birlinn and Polygon will be there with bells on!
Polygon debut fiction author, Stuart Clark, will be taking us back to one of the darkest, yet one of the most enlightening, periods of European history when to say the earth revolved around the sun – as Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei did - was heresy and punishable by death in The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth. Stuart is a well-respected astronomer and science writer, so get along and see some stars.

Alexander McCall Smith will be bringing London’s Pimlico to Melrose with the latest collection of adventures at Corduroy Mansions A Conspiracy of Friends before taking us all to Botswana for Mma Ramotswe’s first adventure, Precious and the Monkeys.
And in three events, which the festival’s Director Alistair Moffat jokingly referred to as the ‘Dead Writers’ Society’, Robert Powell will be reading from and talking about John Buchan’s classic thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps, and David Rintoul will be reading from and talking about Sunset Song and Dr Finlay’s Casebook.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the aforementioned Alistair Moffat will be taking the stage as an author this time to talk about The Scots: A Genetic Journey and his own, rather surprising, background.
So save the dates and get your tickets before they sell out!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011



GETTING HIGHERThe Complete Mountain Poems 

Getting Higher (again . . .)  Back in 1975, two young, bright-eyed musicians - Andrew Greig and James Hutcheson, were introduced to each other via a mutual musician mate who had also been at Edinburgh University. Jim was an illustrator for Canongate books at the time and when Greig said he had a book of poetry which might interest the publisher, he prepared some drawings to accompany the presentation. The folk at Canongate; Stephanie Wolfe Murray and Charles Wilde, were very interested and commissioned JH and AG to finish the project. This was to be called ‘Men on Ice’ - a book of poems with a distinctly Zen take on mountaineering, both physical and metaphorical.  Also working for Canongate at this time was Ruari Maclean. He was the doyen of British Book design 
JH and RM were to work together on various projects including Antonia Fraser’s ‘Scottish Love Poems’ and Alasdair Gray's'Lanark'.  Of particular interest to Jim and Andrew, was the fact that Ruari had worked on the Eagle comic for Marcus Morris in 1950 This highly illustrated publication, with it’s educational tales of derring do, had been one of their influences growing up in the 50s. Ruari had also worked with Berthold Wolpe (another stalwart of British Book Design) on various type headings within the comic - in fact, it was Wolpe who designed the Eagle masthead. As a homage to the comic, Dan Dare et al, Jim handpainted the lettering for ‘Men on Ice’ as a pastiche of the Eagle header. In those pre-digital days, the entire cover, front spine and back, was hand painted - actual size! He also provided all the illustrations for the interior of the book.
Two more collaborative books followed in the eighties and nineties respectively: i.e. ‘Surviving Passages’also Canongate and ‘Western Swing’ for Bloodaxe.  
In 2010, Andrew and Jim, having met up again after some years, suggested to Neville Moir (ex-Canongate, but now a Director of Polygon) that the three books might be re-published as one volume.  This idea was then extended to cover all the mountaineering poems and so also included poems from some other books; ‘This Life, This Life; New & Selected Poems’ and ‘At The Loch of the Green Corrie’  It was decided that the new volume be entitled ‘Getting Higher’. 
With some trepidation, Jim dusted down a lot of the old drawings and they now re-appear along with some ‘out takes’ from the seventies + some new drawings. As a further tip of the hat to the Eagle comic, the title page of Getting Higher has been re-drawn using Wolpe’s original 1950s letter forms. 

AG: I have to say 'GETTING HIGHER' is the most visually various and satisfying book I've ever been involved in, full of elegant and witty solutions to complex and multiple elements of texts, sketches, illustrations, out-takes, facsimiles of manuscript drafts, handwritten notes. I love books as visuals, as objects containing extras and surprises - goes back to the LPs I knew way back when. Though we conferred a lot together, the credit for GH's design must go to Jim.

(James Hutcheson is Birlinn's Creative Director)