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Fringe: Book festival reviews

Ned Beauman and Clemens J Setz

Ned Beauman and Clemens J Setz

Sebastian Barry

TAKING drugs just after 10am? Oh if we must. Ned Beauman kicked off the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday with narcotic excess and corporate malfeasance as he talked about his latest book, Glow.

"This was written in the methadone era," said Beauman, a young man of full beard and thin body ("you could use him as spare wire", to borrow a phrase from Sebastian Barry, pictured). And, from the extract he read, his new novel sounds like William Gibson on Disco Biscuits.

Yet, for someone who claims to be a non-political writer, his concern with the ability of corporations to transcend the rule of law was clear.

Talking of the notorious Blackwater company - subject of four grand jury investigations and accusations of arms trafficking and worse - he asked: "If they're willing to do it in Iraq why wouldn't they do it here?"

In many ways, this session matched the pleasures of Beauman's novels - a dancing dazzle of ideas with a large side order of weirdness (though it was fellow guest Clemens J Setz who came top in the latter with the revelation that he has bought a Geiger counter to walk around with). Not everything connected but it burned wildly.

If the first session of the day was a messy, sprawl of ideas and attitude, the appearance by Sebastian Barry, pictured, shortly afterwards was somewhere north of magisterial. Starting with a bravura reading (no wonder an audience member asked him if he'd ever considered doing audio versions of his own books), Barry spent an hour talking eloquently about the role of stories in his family, the impact of drink on family members and in his books (of his characters Jack and Mai he told us, "drink keeps him alive but it murders her") and the toxins coursing through Irish society.

He even sang for us. The result was a session that bubbled with glee and reminded everyone that sometimes words are the most addictive thing there is.

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