Edinburgh Days - Or Doing What I...
Tales of meandering walks through Scotland’s capital by an essayist known for “often hilarious, sometimes poignant, takes on life” (The New York Times). After a forty-year absence from the city, Sam Pickering—author, literary scholar, and inspiration for the lead character in Dead Poets Society—came to the University of Edinburgh on a fellowship in 2004. Edinburgh Days maps the transition from his life in Connecticut, defined by family, academic appointments, and the recognition of neighbors and avid acolytes, to a temporary existence on foreign soil that is at once unsettlingly isolating and curiously liberating. Part travelogue, part psychological self-study, it’s a walking tour of the Scottish capital as well as through the labyrinth of Pickering’s swerving moods and memories—and a look at what befalls the curious mind of an intellectual removed from the relations and responsibilities that otherwise delineate his days. His daily explorations include Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Castle Rock, the Museum of Childhood, the National Gallery, the Writers’ Museum, the Museum of the People, the Huntly House, the John Knox House, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Edinburgh Zoo, as well as neighborhood pubs, antique stores, and bookshops. Between his ambling tours, he revisits the works of writers renowned and obscure, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Smiles, John Buchan, Tobias Wolff, Russell Hoban, Patrick White, Hilaire Belloc, and Van Wyck Brooks. But it is not so much his erudition as his fascination with minutiae that infuses these essays with dynamic descriptions, quirky observations, and jesting interludes that bring the historic city to life. “As he travels the damp, cobalt-gray streets of the great northern city, we rummage with him in old shops, follow him through gardens and graveyards, and see oft-visited monuments and museums through his fresh eyes . . . prose that glistens with natural details and an unapologetic delight in the foibles of humankind at its most genuine. We are fortunate to have Pickering as our tour guide.” —Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me