Who could resist an event which partners former petroleum geologist Rick Bass, whose short stories have been described by the New York Times as exploring the wild and humane in all of us, and the master of quiet and disturbing explorations of the ordinary Tessa Hadley? Often events with two highly regarded writers can seem like a juggling act for the chair who has to evenly spread the time between each writer, while also leaving enough time for questions from the audience. However, this was not the case with skilled chair Lee Randall at the helm, who, following a brief introduction of each writer and their work, crafted questions that not only allowed them to query their own writing and subject matter, but also gave them the space to do the same for each other’s work.
Of course, this can only really happen if both writers share a curiosity towards the work of others and we were lucky that both Rick Bass and Tessa Hadley had this in abundance. As they generously shared insights into one another’s work and dissected common themes and issues, one of the most interesting discussions between the two writers was on endings; how both Bass’s and Hadley’s understanding of them had evolved over time, and how they wrestled with the consequences of giving characters exactly what they wanted.
As always with these kinds of events, an hour was simply not long enough to cover the complexities and idiosyncrasies of the short story but these two writers gave it their best shot. I would also like to give a special mention to Rick Bass’s baseball metaphor, which had we been an American audience, I’m sure would have brought the house down.
For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival and it’s programme click here.