Ned Beauman set for Edinburgh International Book Festival appearance
Debutant with a palate for the distasteful
This article is from 2011.
Ned Beauman’s first novel, Boxer, Beetle, comes prefaced with the rather haughty caveat: ‘This is a novel for people with breeding. Only people with the right genes and the wrong impulses will find its marriage of bold ideas and deplorable characters irresistible.’ The 26-year-old author – speaking from Berlin, where he’s doing a summer writer’s residency – finds some people’s reactions to his book a bit OTT.
‘A few film companies were interested in my book,’ he explains, ‘but no one’s bought it so far because they said there were too many damaged people in it, and no likeable characters. A lot of reviews pick up on that too, as if that’s a problem? That just seems like criticising a book because the weather’s always rainy in it or something.’
The characters doing all the off-putting are a collector of Nazi memorabilia, a beetle breeder, a 1930s boxer, and someone with a rare condition that means he stinks permanently of rotting fish. Thankfully, the plot unravels at a fizzing pace and in such a densely detailed, shamelessly un-PC manner that the characters’ more rancid sides only add to the fun. ‘It never occurred to me that it’d be agitating as I was writing it,’ insists Beauman, who also writes articles for Dazed and Confused and the Guardian. ‘I’ve read plenty books with more Nazis, more violence or more sex. Something like Hubert Selby Jnr’s Last Exit to Brooklyn: now that’s unpleasant.’
Boxer, Beetle was nominated for last year’s Guardian First Book Award, and will be published in the States next month, but Beauman isn’t one to rest on his laurels, and has already finished book two. It returns to the 1930s, and focuses on a group of Weimar émigrés who end up in LA. ‘It’s not any purer though, and the human beings aren’t any easier.’ With a laugh, he concludes: ‘That just wouldn’t be playing to my strengths.’
14 Aug (with Zoë Strachan), 10.15am, £10 (£8).