Journalists to the fore at Word Festival

JOURNALISTS were very much to the fore at one of Scotland’s most established festivals, held over the weekend.

Now in its tenth year, the writing festival, Word, was held at Aberdeen University, in association with Sunday Herald newspaper, whose associate editor, Alan Taylor, was particularly busy.

Not only did Taylor give a talk on novelist, JD Salinger, on Saturday, but yesterday afternoon he was in conversation with Scottish journalist Allan Massie. Also the editor of The Scottish Review of Books, Taylor in addition chaired the Sunday Herald Debate: Politics and Power.

As well as being a journalist, Massie is also a prolific novelist, essayist, political commentator, sports writer, critic and The Scotsman’s principal reviewer of fiction.

Also doing his bit was the peripatetic Stuart Kelly, literary editor of Scotland on Sunday, who is also an author and critic, and has written a new study on Sir Walter Scott and his influence – Scotland: How a Writer Invented a Nation.

Others on the official programme were Glasgow-based journalist, Jack Webster, and former war correspondent and TV-journalist-turned-independent-MP, Martin Bell, who discussed his recent, and timely, book – A very British Revolution: The Expenses Scandal and How to Save Our Democracy.

On the specific subject of autobiography, Taylor – this time writing in the Church of Scotland magazine, Life and Work – has some interesting thoughts.

He writes: “It matters not to me, however, if autobiographies are true. What is more important is that the author be true to him or herself. It is then up to readers to sort out the deceits, the embroidery from the broad cloth.

“Most of us, I suspect, find it difficult to confront who we really are, to look back on what we’ve done and be objective. The temptation, as can be seen in innumerable autobiographies, is either to portray oneself in a better light than was actually the case or to take a grain of truth and turn it into a field of corn.”

While admiring autobiographers who are prepared to …”embellish or invent a story, to the betterment of the book but to the corruption of the historical record”, Taylor says he could not adopt that modus operandi himself.

“One has a duty, I believe, to tell it as it was, warts and all, good and bad, which is where the difficulties arise. Who among us has the courage to see ourselves – as someone once said – as others see us? The more I think about it the more inclined I am to think: not me.”