Imagine this: it’s a misty evening, it’s dark, it’s cold and you’re worrying about your midterms. It doesn’t sound too great, does it? Imagine how your mood would change if you were to sit down in a cosy, brightly lit room where the scent of books hangs in the air. Even better, a soft, lilting voice starts to read a story — something tender, insightful, and a little bit funny.
This is exactly what I experienced last Tuesday when I had the good fortune of hearing the writer, Eliza Robertson, read from her critically acclaimed book of short stories Wallflowers as well as some new, unpublished material. Word Power Books served the perfect setting for such an event and the small, intimate space really suited the low-key nature of the reading. Indeed, Robertson interacted with the small audience with such warmth and grace that it was a pleasure to be in her presence. Despite not having read any of her work before I quickly gained a sense of the world which Robertson creates in her writing. This is a world seen through sharp eyes and narrated in crisp detail, creating a real sense that Robertson is a writer who wishes to probe beneath the surface of day-to-day life and force us to decode and scrutinise the social codes which define the way we act with others. In this writing there’s a fascination with the roles we play with one another and this is put into sharp contrast with the inner voice of the mind: the only space where we are truly free to be ourselves.
In the illuminating question and answer session after the reading, Edinburgh University’s writer in residence, Sam Riviere, probed Robertson’s mind about her writing style and formal education as an author. Riviera was perhaps the ideal candidate for such a job, being able to draw upon his expertise as an author himself in order to provoke some interesting answers about what it is to be working the literary world nowadays. Afterwards, the questions were opened up to the floor so that everyone could get the chance to engage with Robertson personally, and to receive some advice on how to further their writing. It is worth noting that the woman in question managed to bring a professionalism to such an informal setting, pairing this with what seemed like a genuine interest in the questions of the people gathered to see her.
In short, I strongly admire Eliza Robertson and would thoroughly recommend that everyone go to Word Power Books and buy her collection.
Image: Abhi Sharma/ Flickr.com