Written by Thomas Caldow
Standing outside Blackwell’s on South Bridge, I found myself stop a moment, unsure whether to enter. Having only recently moved up to Edinburgh, I was going in blind with little idea of what to expect. However, as I climbed the steps to the top room, I was pleasantly surprised to be met with an already busy crowd expectantly waiting for the event to begin. The event in question was the launch of the Edinburgh Literary Salon’s brand-new collection Lost, Looking & Found, and was a testament to the literary culture of the city. As I settled down to listen to the thought-provoking discussion with Mary Paulson-Ellis , author of the opening story, The Man From ’53, I allowed myself to be swept away by the conversation as the themes of the collection began to open up.
Lost, Looking & Found: the tensions and similarities inherent in these three words form the basis of this bold offering from the newly revived Salon. Brimming with life and energy, Lost, Looking & Found, brings together a mix of voices, both fresh and familiar, to share their stories through a heady mix of prose, poetry and beyond. These tales, arranged into three sections around each of the words in turn, while standing on their own, also find themselves pressed into a larger whole with each successive page. Much in the same way as the book’s foreword describes Edinburgh as made up of “layers”, so Lost, Looking & Found finds it themes and images mirrored and echoed throughout its pages in a continuous cycle of meaning found, lost, then found again.
The Edinburgh Literary Salon offers us the opportunity to enjoy their works from the comfort of our own home, yet at the same time allows us to engage with it as a community. Much as the free exchange of ideas of the Salon’s namesake shaped the city around them, Looking, Lost & Found fills our private Edinburgh with the names, faces, and adventures of others. This is not to say that every story concerns itself explicitly with our city, but that we are able to see reflections of Edinburgh as we read. Whether we find ourselves reminded of the harbours of Leith while reading The Man of ’53 and its tales of disaster at sea or recognise the thrill of finding an adopted home in Carola Huttman’s, The Island, the collective memories of the Salon are consistently mingled in with our own.
During my attendance at the event several people struck up conversation with me to discuss not only the event but also their writing, plans for the pub later that night or simply how their week had been. The talking, I soon realised, did not stop after the event, only widened to include our own voices. Similarly, our engagement with the text does not end on the page, instead the work of the Literary Salon ensures that we go on reading every time we leave our front door.