Iain Maloney at Aye Write Book Festival 2020. Credit: Robbie Boyd
Over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring guest blog posts by our authors as a way of connecting readers and writers during this difficult period of social distancing. First up is Iain Maloney, author of The Only Gaijin in the Village, who is currently self-isolating at home in rural Japan after a very busy few weeks in Japan, Australia and Scotland.
What interesting times we live in. With all that’s going on in the world the cancellation of a few book events doesn’t amount to a hill of beans but, to paraphrase lieutenant Frank Drebin, this is my hill, and these are my beans.
I’m luckier than most. Four events on my recent tour to promote The Only Gaijin in the Village went ahead, including a sold out reading at Edinburgh Central Library and a packed night at the Aye Write festival in Glasgow. Book lovers in St Andrews and, a week earlier in Sydney, also turned out in style. Unfortunately further nights in Manchester, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh had to be pulled due to coronavirus concerns while I hightailed it out of there clacking coconuts together and yelling “Run away! Run away!” I only just made it, too. Japan is now effectively in isolation, with entry to the country restricted and visas cancelled. I got in under the wire, rolling through Kansai Airport like Indiana Jones, and now I’m self-isolating with a single malt and a stack of books. There are worse places from which to watch the world burn.
Is my memoir about life in rural Japan important, in the grand scheme of things? Does it really matter that a few dozen people won’t hear me talking about myself before getting tore into the free wine? No, of course not. What is important is the interconnected community of bibliophiles. Now, more than ever, we need the comfort and escape that stories give us. Books are the stepping stones on which we pick our path through life. Without their support we’d quickly lose our way. I recently watched The Lighthouse starring Willen Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, lighthouse keepers theoretically adept at dealing with isolation. It’s no spoiler to say that both go batshit crazy and I couldn’t help but notice that while they were endlessly supplied with strong liquor, there wasn’t a book on the whole damned island.
Now, more than ever, we need the comfort and escape that stories give usIain Maloney
Bookstores are still standing, staff still fulfilling orders. For years we’ve been trying to get people offline and back into the shops but that doesn’t work just now. Buy a book. Not just because it supports the writer whose income is threatened; not just because it supports the publishers, whose livelihoods are under pressure; not just because it supports the booksellers, who were already struggling to keep their heads above water; not just because it supports postal and delivery workers, the blood cells of our community; buy a book because we’re all going to need a pressure valve, an escape route, a どこでもドア* before too long.
“What did you do during the Great Corona Plague, Grandad?”
“I read, little one. I read as if my life depended on it.”