VagabonD's 2016-2017 Programme
Our 2016-2017 programme spans from September 2016 to October 2017.
by Jenni Daiches
Publication: 12 October 2016
With her seventieth birthday approaching, the newly widowed Sonia whose mother died at seventy-three feels that she is living on borrowed time and must make the most of what she has left. Much to her adult children’s dismay, she moves from her Yorkshire home of forty years to a rundown railway carriage in the Scottish Highlands. Scotland may not be her birthplace, but Sonia has fond memories of a childhood spent with her Scottish grandparents, and in the Highlands she feels closer to her eldest son, who tragically died there.
Scotland is where Sonia feels she needs to be: here, she is the eccentric white-haired woman who lives with two dogs in a railway carriage. Here, she is an outsider, and is free to examine and reinvent herself. She enjoys her independence and, as the referendum day approaches, reflects on what independence would mean for Scotland and for the UK.
Borrowed Time is an exercise in gratitude that explores life’s happiest, saddest and most mundane moments with equal measure, showing that even an ordinary life is extraordinary in its details.
A Barrel of Dried Leaves
by Allan Cameron
Publication: 19 October 2016
“A barrel not of laughs but of contortions, confusions and the occasional dry chortle — and of metre adorned with irregular, sometimes internal rhymes, assonances, alliterations, awkwardnesses and other such trickery unfashionable to the current academic ear, and not a murmur of the poet’s inner angst, failed loves or fortitude.”
This second collection of Cameron’s poetry contains a wide variety of subjects, not all of which are commonly associated with poetry: a weak man is interviewed by angels and devils, an Afghan mystic tells us why he became one, a riposte to Scott’s “Breathes there a man with soul so dead”, taking the side of the man with a dead soul, the English language, a lesson on Italian viticulture, and another on Italian anatomy amongst others.
Barking up the Right Tree 2016
by Paul Kavanagh
Publication: 31 October 2016
Beneath the wit and linguistic trickery of Paul Kavanagh in the company of his trusted Wee Ginger Dug, you’ll find an encyclopaedic knowledge of Scottish politics. Here is political satire in the best tradition. No punches are pulled, and strangely the humour is both brutal and subtle.
This second instalment in the Barking Up the Right Tree series (the first was Barking up the Right Tree (2015)) offers a selection of Kavanagh's articles that were published exclusively in The National between 15 October 2015 and 10 September 2016. Topics covered range from indyref2 and Brexit to Donald Trump and teacakes. Kavanagh is always ready with a smart phrase that encapsulates both the absurdities we live through and the real hopes for change that have caught Scotland’s imagination.
"Thirteen months have passed since the referendum. Thirteen months of faster, safer constitutional change. But despite the promises of the No campaign, Scotland still has not received a single one of the extra super-duper superpowers that were going to be delivered to Holyrood faster than the Flash with an amphetamine habit."
Two Plays: The Pitiless Storm & The Cause of Thunder
by Chris Dolan
Publication: 23 January 2017
Chris Dolan has written two monologues for actor David Hayman: The Pitiless Storm and its follow-up, The Cause of Thunder. Starting in February and continuing through 2017, Chris Dolan and David Hayman will go on tour with The Cause of Thunder, directed by David Hayman Jr.
Aye Write! will show a special double bill of The Pitiless Storm and The Cause of Thunder on Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 3 p.m. at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. There will also be a post-show chat. We'll provide more details once we have them!
For more information on The Cause of Thunder, or to book tickets, please go to the FairPley website, which lists all of the dates and venues, starting with the Corran Halls in Oban on 1 February.
About The Cause of Thunder (from the Tron Theatre website):
"A funny thing happened on the way to the pub… Bob Cunningham thought he saw a man ascend into the sky.
"It’s two years after the referendum, and Bob Cunningham has stuff on his mind: whether or not to take early retirement; politics, of course, and what to do about the No vote, Brexit, Corbyn, refugees… that weird thing about rising into the heavens… and not forgetting the letter from Ethel, his ex.
"It puts him in storytelling mood -- Bob’s one of life’s raconteurs -- all the while trying to decide what to do about retirement and the onset of old age, and whether his life’s work is done. Is he finished? Can he come to terms with his, and his country’s, past, and future?"
About The Pitiless Storm (from fairpley.com):
"On the eve of the Scottish referendum on the most important night of his life a left wing trade unionist goes through a crisis of conscience as he is forced to question his political and moral beliefs in the face of a sea-change in his country’s political life."Loved and respected Bob Cunningham (David Hayman) has devoted his life to the party he loves and believes in but in his mid-fifties he is forced by the voices of his past and his conscience to re-evaluate everything he has held dear."
From the Sunday Herald: "Hayman plays the conflict between pragmatic gradualist and radical socialist, egotist and altruist within Cunningham with an impressive sense of psychological and emotional meltdown. If you only see one monodrama or one show about Scotland’s referendum during this year’s Fringe, this play is a winner on both counts."
Memoirs of a Life Cut Short
by Ričardas Gavelis (trans. Jayde Will)
Publication: 4 May 2017
Memoirs of a Life Cut Short is a damning document to the falsity of a system that slowly crushed everyone in its wake. It is a Bildungsroman for the Homo Sovieticus: the reader sees the development of a regular, ordinary person in Soviet conditions who in one way or another becomes part of the system, and soon realises that it is almost impossible to change it or extract oneself from it.
In fourteen letters from beyond the grave to his friend and teacher Tomas Kelertas, protagonist Leonas Ciparis talks about his life from his earliest days up until his last; his rise from lowly beginnings to the upper echelon of the Communist Party illustrating the possibilities of the new Soviet person.
The novel brilliantly illustrates an aspect of Lithuanian society that is understood to exist, but is rarely talked about openly. On a broader scale, the reader is helped to understand the effects of totalitarian systems on the human psyche through the lens of Lithuanians living under Soviet rule.
Gavelis is an internationally acclaimed writer, with his seminal work Vilnius Poker translated into English in 2009, as well as into numerous other languages, most recently French.
The Spit, the Sound and the Nest
by Kathrine Sowerby
Publication: 22 May 2017 (Available mid-March)
The Spit, the Sound and the Nest is a novel in three parts set in distinct, unnamed locations over a winter, a day and a week. Each part revolves around a small group of central characters forced to depend on one another when faced with unexpected circumstances. In all the stories the past weighs heavily on the present.
The Spit opens with runaway teens Felix and Luc lost on a dark, snowy night in a small town. A couple offers them work and a place to stay. By winter’s end the four face life-changing decisions. In The Sound, a woman who has chosen to live in isolation questions her decision when a girl shows up at her door dripping wet and carrying a newborn baby. In The Nest, sisters Alice and Edna struggle to make sense of adult lives and cruelties after the housekeeper tells them their parents have died in an accident.
"The writing in this glorious triptych of stories is as you’d expect from a poet of Sowerby’s talent — concise, evocative and seductive. In these stories, children are protectors and threats, strangers are family, and the ordinary is rendered full of risk. I could spend quite some time in the thrilling comfort of Sowerby’s prose. Savour this book — a compact, rich gem." — Elizabeth Reeder
Click here to look inside the book.
You're Not Supposed to Cry
by Gary Duncan
Publication: 26 May 2017 (Available mid-March)
Family dinner somehow becomes more mundane after Uncle Colin does a fatal face plant into the plum pudding. A lonely old widower sits at home and participates in conversations he records whilst riding the bus. Curled up like a comma, a woman lies in bed and remembers the exclamation-mark man her partner once was.
These brief, vivid glimpses into the lives of others lay bare the ugliness and absurdity — but also the beauty — of existence. In his flash fictions Gary Duncan explores what it means to be human with insight, compassion and humour.
“Trigger warning! After you read one, Duncan has you hooked. Don’t read this collection in one sitting — parcel these stories out and take time in between to reflect on what just took place. These stories are headshaking original, funny, fascinating, at times chilling, and no subject is sacrosanct — all things a 5-star collection should be. Buy two copies — you won’t want to lend your only one out.” — Paul Beckman, author of Peek
“In his expertly crafted collection of flash, Gary Duncan offers us a 20-20 glimpse of post-modern society with its quirkiness and deviance. A must read that you can’t put down.” — Pulitzer nominee Niles Reddick, author of Drifting Too Far From the Shore
“Wide-ranging and wise, You’re Not Supposed to Cry is a wonderfully human and often humorous exploration of the timeless and the everyday. A thoughtful and engaging collection of flashes that is sure to become part of the flash fiction canon. It is very good.” — Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, Directors, The International Flash Fiction Association
“Gary Duncan’s stories will tickle you one moment and slap you in the face the next. They’ll bite, scratch, caress, and hold you. Whether Duncan’s stories leave you shocked or amused, you will remember them.” — Santino Prinzi, author of Dots: And Other Flashes of Perception
“Gary Duncan’s stories are sharply incisive slices of life, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes both.” — Paul D. Brazil, author of The Last Laugh and Guns of Brixton
“Gary Duncan’s flash fiction is vivid, sharp and memorable. I was immediately drawn into each of these stories and enjoyed the short rides immensely. They’re never predictable, often surprising, and the endings left me thinking — in a good way.” — Tom Hazuka, editor of Flash Fiction and You Have Time for This
“Gary Duncan, in his capacity as an editor, has proved more times than anybody should need to that he knows good flash fiction, and you should know he writes it too, with consummate skill and grace. This collection of gritty snapshots, of lives passing you by like the countryside through the window of a train carriage, is written with remarkable lucidity and compassion for lives and scenes that may otherwise have passed unremarked. One is reminded of the Joyce of Dubliners, waiting for an epiphanic truth to be revealed in a casual exchange of dialogue, the glow of sunlight on a brick wall, or in a gesture that might suddenly reveal the world. Duncan’s work encompasses the urban mundane and the liminal, and one has the sense that, at the edge of these stories, is some great revelation bursting to enter. Each story is its own universe, its own dream. Without a single wasted word, Duncan has created a powerful body of work. It’s Carver meets Lynch by way of Hemingway, and it’s quite wonderful.” — Gareth Spark, author of Snake Farm and Marwick’s Reckoning
“Gary Duncan knows flash fiction. Anyone who has visited Spelk is aware of this. Sit back, and allow a master to show you how it’s done.” — Paul Heatley, author of An Eye for an Eye
“Excellent, mordantly funny flash stories about fucked up lives that feature bad decisions, partial knowledge, strange fetishes (one for ankles here), and greed. ... Reading Duncan is like a series of jolts, electricity delivered through ordinary lives, people dealing with the bad and the ugly, not often the good.” — Alan Beard, author of Taking Doreen Out of the Sky and You Don’t Have to Say
"As the editor of top-notch UK flash site Spelk, Gary Duncan has probably read more short fiction in the last few years than most people encounter in a lifetime. He steps away from the editorial hot-seat to bring us a new collection of his own flash fiction, You’re Not Supposed to Cry, which blends the surreal, the macabre and the everyday to great effect. Cheeky, playful and thoroughly British, this well-judged collection is crammed with small but perfectly formed delights." — Tom Leins
The Death of the Perfect Sentence
by Rein Raud (trans. Matthew Hyde)
Publication: 21 June 2017 (Available mid-April)
This thoughtful spy novel cum love story is set mainly in Estonia during the dying days of the Soviet Union, but also in Russia, Finland and Sweden. A group of young pro-independence dissidents devise an elaborate scheme for smuggling copies of KGB files out of the country, and their fates become entangled, through family and romantic ties, with the security services never far behind them.
Through multiple viewpoints the author evokes the curious minutiae of everyday life, offers wry observations on the period through personal experience, and asks universal questions about how interpersonal relationships are affected when caught up in momentous historical changes.
This sometimes wistful examination of how the Estonian Republic was reborn after a long and stultifying hiatus speaks also of the courage and complex chemistry of those who pushed against a regime whose then weakness could not have been known to them.
"Rein Raud is already known for having written a number of highly varied and multi-layered novels, and his latest work is no exception. It is above all a first-rate work of fiction, but it also provides a view into Estonia’s recent history which is witty and thought-provoking, leaving the reader not knowing whether to laugh or cry. The novel’s main ingredients, which include the KGB, Western spies, and Soviet dissidents, guarantee an addictive reading experience, and looming above all else is the central question of how to build a new society in conditions where the main legacy of the old one was the destruction of interpersonal trust." – Peeter Helme, Estonian Literature Centre
by Pauls Bankovskis
Pages: 196 (approx.)
Publication: June 2017
As the First World War comes to an end, chaos takes of much of Europe and even the victors sense that the old certainties have been lost in the massacre. In Latvia it appears that two centuries of Russian rule are coming to an end, but other powers and destabilising factors persist. Pauls Bankovskis’s novel examining this most important of years in his country’s history reveals how a new republic emerged from disorder and chance, gradually but also erratically. Painstaking in his research, he even walked himself the full length of the escape route to Finland taken by his protagonist. This is the story of a year and its far from unified people.
Two different Latvias, almost a century apart, one looking uncertainly to the future and the other uncomprehendingly to the past, inhabit very different eras and use each other to inform their own actions.
From the Annual Latvian Literature Award page:
“Two Latvians, two different periods, with almost a century between them. One of them, in the autumn of 1917, is not entirely sure whether it is worth it for Latvians to attempt and establish their own country. There is still time until November 18th, and his thoughts on it could change, if one could give him an answer to the question “Why?” The second comes upon this same question today. That which seemed already self-evident to many in 1918 suddenly doesn’t seem that way anymore. This is a story about an improbable encounter between these two characters.”
I Loved a German
by A.H. Tammsaare (transl. Chris Moseley)
Publication: 5 June 2017
From the Estonian Literature Centre:
“What happens when you think you have fallen in love with a woman, but it turns out that you love her grandfather instead?
“A. H. Tammsaare’s I Loved a German is a gripping love story, in which the classic love triangle takes a very untraditional form. The plot is centered around a young Estonian university student who falls in love with a young Baltic German woman. The Baltic Germans have lost their former aristocratic position in society since Estonia declared its independence. The young German earns her keep as a tutor for an Estonian family, and is not economically well-off. The young man, Oskar, starts courting the girl frivolously, but then falls head-over-heels in love with her.
“Before long, the prejudice that an Estonian and a Baltic German are of socially unequal standings starts to stalk the couple. When Oskar goes to ask Erika’s grandfather — a former manor lord — for the girl’s hand, the meeting leaves a deep impression on his soul. All of a sudden, Oskar finds himself wondering if perhaps he doesn’t love the woman in Erika, but rather her grandfather; meaning, her noble descent. Perhaps the “slave’s blood” of farmhands who had been in the service of Baltic Germans for centuries is manifested in his love, instead?
“Does love depend solely upon the emotions of two young individuals, or are their origins, their social and cultural background actually the deciding factor?”
The White Shroud
by Antanas Škėma (transl. Karla Gruodis)
Publication: 11 September 2017
The White Shroud (Balta drobulė, 1958) is considered by many as the most important work of modernist fiction in Lithuanian. Drawing heavily on the author’s own refugee and immigrant experience, this psychological, stream-of-consciousness work tells the story of an émigré poet working as an elevator operator in a large New York hotel during the mid-1950s. Using multiple narrative voices and streams, the novel moves through sharply contrasting settings and stages in the narrator’s life in Lithuania before and during World War II, returning always to New York and the recent immigrant’s struggle to adapt to a completely different, and indifferent, modern world. Strong characters and evocative utterances convey how historical context shapes language and consciousness, breaking down any stable sense of self.
As in other major modernist works, Skėma uses language and allusion to destabilise. Narrative, voice and language shift continuously, capturing the anti-hero’s psychological and cultural disorientation — the complexity of experience in a modern world where, in Yeats’ words, “the centre cannot hold.” Like the author’s, Garšva’s frame of reference is vast — quotes from French arias, Kafka and American culture collide with visceral memories of archaic Lithuanian folk song. Garšva’s use of poignant and comical émigré slang in his interactions captures the ironies and absurdities of the immigrant’s situation. By the end of the novel, further grammatical and linguistic disarray mirrors the final unravelling of Garšva’s mind as he descends into madness.
Like all powerful fiction, this novel draws the reader into an intimate, culturally and historically specific world to explore universal human themes of selfhood, alienation, creativity and cultural difference. This English translation promises to appeal to various audiences: readers of modernist and world literature, scholars of Baltic literature and refugee studies, and members of the Lithuanian diaspora unable to access this novel in Lithuanian. Written from the perspective of a newcomer to an Anglophone country, The White Shroud encourages readers to better understand the complexities of immigrant life.
Cinico: Travels with a Good Professor at the Time of the Scottish Referendum
by Allan Cameron
The narrator is an urbane, cynical and egocentric Italian journalist with little interest in the truth, though not as venal as his companion, a professor of politics. The journalist meets people across the spectrum of ideas, and the book concerns not just political events, but how people interrelate within a social context, Scotland’s place in Europe and how Europeans interpret each other. The Italian encounters a range of Europeans: a Ukrainian nationalist, a Russian religious guru, an eccentric Estonian, an Algerian and a dying man.
The narrator falls in love with a Scottish campaigner. This is unusual, as he has been a careless and egotistical lover in every sense, and beneath the urbane veneer, he’s an old-fashioned Italian. He messes up the relationship, and she leaves him for an eccentric Estonian.
The Italian, like Voltaire's Candide, starts with a mindset incapable of bringing him either understanding or contentment, and ends the book with some understanding and an awareness that it is not sufficient, but perhaps sufficient enough.
Mind over Matter
by Chris Dolan
Publication: November/December 2017 (moved to 2017-2018 programme)
Dolan’s third instalment in his popular Maddy Shannon series (Potter’s Field, Lies of the Land) sees Maddy on her first assignment with the Scottish Procurator Fiscal’s Fatalities Investigation Unit, in which she investigates the death of an unidentified woman found in a West End Glasgow flat.
An aspect of the investigation brings Maddy face to face, for the first time, with an actual human being connected to Petrus Inc., the multinational petrochemical company she has been chasing for years. The unidentified victim turns out to be a ticking time bomb, putting Maddy Shannon in mortal danger.
As she works to solve the case Maddy struggles to overcome her own personal issues: her long-distance relationship with a New York police officer flounders at the same time that she is rebuilding her relationship with her estranged father, who has moved back to Glasgow after twenty years abroad.