Saturday, October 9, 2010

Frankfurt Bookfair: On Books and Love

On Books and Love

Dear Frankfurt,

About a year has passed and I have no choice but to say goodbye. Again. I´m not looking for the one to blame here, but this is clearly not working and some things have to change.
We had some good times, though, thank you for those.
What I loved most, were the small things. Like people whom you meet 30 minutes a year or less, you don´t know much about their whole life, but you do remember that reception five years ago, you laughed your heart out at who knows what. You spoke about books even at "free time".
Some of us have moved, others have had kids, married and divorced, been promoted, downsized, fired or died. Not necessarily in that order. People who tell you things they do not tell their family. The groups You belong to get smaller each year, like ten little nig--- indians. Its sometimes cruel to hear summaries of past year in life in those few minutes. Come on, we have only 5 minutes left, tell me how you are, fast!
I remember Manuel, who did this 47th year in a row. Not present this year, who knows why. I hope just taking a break.
Take pictures, of the people, not the ugly buildings. You will regret later, if not.

Once in a while you might find friends. You don´t see them for much more often, but they travel with you and you will travel that extra mile to hear more how things are. I´m not too sure how real this friendship is, but it is comforting to know somebody on the other side of the world sometimes thinks of you and occasionally we might even visit each other.
You meet very different people. You try to remember, is she/he the handshaker, the hugger or the kisser? One or two kisses, which side first for them? The old roadies, who know it all, or so they think. The desperate hit seekers, who are afraid that every book they will not buy, will be a hit. The agents who claim their every work is of a genius and agents who say, „actually, don´t buy this book, it is crap“. We all know who usually does better. Or the enthusiastic debutants, who are not sure what to think of the lost virginity. My fondest memory of the latter was an Indian girl, who published a few children books and was here for first time. „I feel like a mouse in front of Himalayas,“ she said. She probably never came again, but I think she was happy to see it for once.
There are all types of people, quiet stereotype librarians, angry bitches and womanizers seeking a quick affair away from home, some who like to expose themselves and don´t care too much about books, publishers who have a rich wife, husband or parents, so don´t rely on sales.
Have too many meetings and You can easily become cynical. I love Wednesdays and Thursdays, there is still joy of seeing some people and books. After a few dozen meetings the irony and cynicism arrives. When You see the 26th book on fifty most influential people in history, the fourth book on zombie cupcakes, hundred and sixty fourth book on horny vampires in love, another story about finding big answers from a poor man... Mercy!
So yes, it can be a stamina sport. Don´t have so many meetings, You don´t have any time to walk around a bit.

Then there are books. Do You enjoy the buzz, that you are surrounded by people who enjoy some of the same things as you more than it is in everyday life? Or the moment You think You have found something, a book you fall in love with or you think she is the one you have been looking for? It´s a great moment, enjoy it. As close to treasure hunt You might get in Your adult life. A good book that also sells, how nice. It can be fake sometimes – let´s be honest, You are probably not the only one noticing her. Are You up for competition or is she out of Your league? Perhaps still remember The Great One That Got Away? Or have You fallen in love with a wrong book? She might not be good for You, just ruins your reputation, empties the pockets and makes you a wreck.

Relativity. Do You still remember times, when Harry Potter was considered by some too low to mention? Well, now after Twilight nobody really disagrees it was high literature. Things are not hopeless, but I wouldn´t say they are getting significantly better. There are always books You love to publish and books You have to publish (except if You are very rich, I guess). Find the balance, if you care about your work.

And like in all relationships, its not only about cuddly love and friends. It is sometimes also about betrayal, misunderstandings, new births and ugly divorces. I guess we have all experienced it – do You remember winning the first auction for a popular title? Or do You remember better when your first important author left you for another? Perhaps somebody cooler or richer? Oh come on, yes You do. You always say it didn´t hurt, but we see You right through. You might not actually get over it. You used to be met every year , but now You are not asked to his parties? Will You still say hello or will You take him back, if he asks You? Were those jokes he made actually funny or perhaps now seem pretty lame?

But all shall pass.
You probably will find other love, but who knows if You can or should forget the past.
How do You know if their feelings and promises are true or are they faking it? They all promise to be the next Larsson, the next Dan Brown, the next Potter, the next whoever. Be careful not to commit on too many promises, three months after publication they are often not good for anything. Do You choose by jacket or actually read it to know what´s she like inside? Or is that a good idea after all, as Your readers probably mostly look at the cover? Ah, the cheating bastards! But if You lose the trust in everyone, there can be no wonderful surprises.
This is why we can´t make it too often. It´s not a real world, but a fun temporary fantasy and feeling of belonging somewhere for some time.
As time goes by, we will forget the downsides of this affair and can turn nostalgic. We will meet again and there will be some new good moments. For a while.

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