Reading between the lines

choice: three to see in the next seven days
Set somewhat apart from the hustle, bustle and hype around it, the biennial Edinburgh Book Festival is an oasis of relative calm at this time of year, the tented village at Charlotte Square Gardens a place of retreat from the buskers and pamphleteers stalking the Royal Mile. That's not to say the outside world doesn't impinge at all. Appropriately enough for an event that runs in tandem with the world's largest arts festival, many of this year's most enticing events feature performers, most notably in the fine series of "Stage to Page" talks. Highlights include: Steven Berkoff on his new book of recollections, Overview (Thur 17, 7pm), Joanna Trollope and Michael Dobbs on having their bestsellers adapted for television (Fri 18, 6.30pm), Simon Callow and Richard Eyre (Thur 24 Aug, 5pm), and Billie Whitelaw on her new biography, Billie Whitelaw...Who He? (Sat 26, 6.30pm). One of this weekend's high points promises to be Michael Foot (right), appearing on Sunday.

Book festivals aren't noted for their intellectual content. Their real purpose, is to put faces to names and Edinburgh is no exception. If lively debate is what you're looking for, however, then two events stand out. On Monday 21 Aug at 5pm, Jonathan Coe, Nick Hornby and Mark Lawson will be discussing the effect of popular culture on literary fiction; while, this Monday at 11am, Harold Bloom defends the 26 writers included in his "Western canon" against the combined critical might of Colm Toibin, Frank Kermode, Carsten Jensen and Germaine Greer. Dare your hangover to survive that.


Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh (0131-220 3991) tomorrow to 28 Aug