From James Hogg to Ian Rankin, Robert Louis Stevenson to Alexander McCall Smith, Edinburgh is incredibly rich in literature – perhaps uniquely so for a city of its size. Walking the city it often feels as if you’re in the company of scores of writers, and last night saw the launch of a project that aims to make that feeling a reality.
LitLong is a database and app that weaves thousands of literary texts into the geography of the city. Download the app, and as you wander through streets, parks and closes it will guide you to key locations and show you how authors have written about them. You can also search the city from the comfort of your laptop – and there will even be a ‘sentiment visualiser’ that will analyse whether a location is associated with positive or negative emotion. The app was demonstrated at last night’s launch, and it looks like an amazing way to bring literature into an everyday context and give a sense of how extensive and deeply layered Edinburgh’s literary history is.
It’s not just about the history, though. LitLong includes work by several contemporary authors, and as part of the project the organisers ran a competition for writers to contribute a story to the database. I’m delighted that my story Candlemaker Row was chosen from a shortlist of five: Keith Dumble, Ricky Brown, Sandy Thomson and D.R.D. Bruton were all highly praised by Doug Johnstone, who judged the contest.
Because Edinburgh is so written about, it was difficult to find a fresh perspective for my story. My solution was quite radical… You can read Candlemaker Row here, in its entirety – and if you happen to be wandering past Haymarket, through the Grassmarket and up Candlemaker Row, you’ll be accompanied by snippets of my text along with quotes from Sir Walter Scott, Muriel Spark, Irvine Welsh and hundreds more.
Lit Long: Edinburgh is the visual, interactive output of the Palimpsest project, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures; the School of Informatics; the University of St Andrews’ SACHI research group; and EDINA. Download the app here.