Julian Hall's Festival diary

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The Independent Culture

Chuck Palahniuk lived up to his reputation as an unorthodox speaker when he threw out inflatable dolls to his Book Festival audience. The wheeze was to tie in with his new book, Snuff, set against the backdrop of the porn industry. The American author was asked if he'd had fun making up names for the porn movies mentioned in his book: "People left messages for me for a year after I asked for suggestions. Some of the best ones included cultural spoofs like The Importance of Balling Earnest and Chitty Chitty Gang Bang."



One of the many menial jobs that Fringe favourite David Benson (left) did when he came to Edinburgh in 1986 was dishwasher at the French restaurant Le Sept. When Benson, who is at this year's Fringe with his Noël Coward tribute show, bumped into Le Sept's former head chef at The Spiegeltent this week, he found out that his successor at the sink also followed him into theatre – the playwright David Harrower. "Clearly, if you want to get on in theatre," says Benson, "you have to pay your dues with the dishes first."



Reading from his new book on Russia, Jonathan Dimbleby raised laughter with his assessment of the national character: "You need quite a lot of vodka to break through the initial hostile exterior of a Russian and I drank twice my own body weight to make that breakthrough – but I ended up making great friends," he said.

Edinburgh International Festival staff members have been whiling away their long working hours singing about Jidariyya, the Palestinian National Theatre's adaptation of Mahmoud Darwish's poem, to the tune of Abba's hit song "Mamma Mia".



juleshall@hotmail.com

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