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The Independent Culture
The Edinburgh Book Festival programme landed on our desk last week, and a handsome thing it is too, with tons of author photos and a cheery cartoon cover. Some of the pix backfire rather; Claire Tomalin looks as tousled and Byronic as you'd expect of a Romantic biographer, but for every toothsome portrait of a smouldering scribbler there are at least two plain puddings. Some of the children's writers are especially scary. Of Debi Gliori they say: "This promises to be a memorable meeting for young readers" - not least because of the author/ illustrator's truly frightening eyebrows. Philip Ridley is another chap one would hesitate to leave one's tinies with: not only is he sporting a hat two sizes too small for his moonish face, but he's also wearing a decidedly suspect velour top with drawstring neck.

Every festival has to have a New Lads' event involving Nick Hornby and an all-male line-up, and this time round the Feverpitch boy is patting backs with Jonathan What a Carve Up Coe and Mark Lawson. "Greatest Living Art Critic" David Sylvester is delivering a lecture, as is Marina Warner (the first Angela Carter Memorial Lecture). Much praised and prized McVitie Scottish Writer of the Year Janice Galloway is in conversation with Hunter Davies. There are over 400 events,200 of which are free, and all tickets are under a fiver. Of the 250 participating authors, Iain Banks, Anne Fine, Candia McWilliam, Brendan Kennelly, Rosamunde Pilcher, Rose Tremain, Joan Smith, Colm Toibin, Germaine Greer, Hilary Mantel, Ben Okri and Edna O'Brien are but a small selection. Much fun will no doubt be had in Beck's Famous Spiegeltent, a chill-out area sponsored by Beck's beer.

Pick of the lot? Well, it's got to be Difficult Women, a cabaret show about Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and other female authors with attitude. Music composed by, er, Joe Dolce.

8 Tickets are available from the Book Festival Box Office at James Thin, 57 George St, or during the festival at the site in Charlotte Square Gardens. For a programme, ring 0131 228 5444.