So, you've been wondering what Katy did at the book fair? I know you have. I know you've been drooping in front of your computer screens with your tongues hanging out, waiting for all the juicy details. Well, here they come. Some of them.
This was my third visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair, but the first time I've really done it properly, in the actual having meetings and drinking heavily way. I'm not sure what I did the other times; probably just wandered the halls feeling lost and hung out in the Translators' Centre. Oh yeah, that was it.
This year, they made it more difficult for me to hide by abolishing the Translators' Centre. But in fact they replaced it with something else that was exactly the same; same chairs and tables, same place in Hall 5, same pointless registration desk, same neighbours, same hundreds of translators slurping coffee and gossiping, same events programme (with different events, obviously), same idea of translators doing their work on a big screen for all to see; different name, different carpet. So that was one good place to hide, as was the "young publishers' island" or whatever it's called, where I went to sit in a booth and look blank. Thanks for that, guys, it was very restful.
In between all this, I met some editors and publishers and foreign rights people and did actual business. I didn't go to any book presentations or readings or anything, but I did sort of check out what books were on display. Including the German Book Prize winner Tauben fliegen auf, which even the publishers Jung & Jung obviously hadn't expected to win - it's out of print already, they're waiting for 20,000 extra copies but you can't get the damn thing for love nor money. So I sat down and read it for half an hour just in case anyone asked me (and yes, two people did). I was underwhelmed, but what can you expect in half an hour? Let's hope the narrative is the hook, because although the writing is fine and subtle, it didn't get my boat rocking. I promise to read it when it's available in bookstores again.
And other than that, I did the whole book fair kit and caboodle. In the evenings, I mean. That means:
- I went to a posh hotel bar and had drinks on someone else's expense account while lounging on a sofa. Someone stole my friend's drink while we were there, which I suspect is not uncommon, and a man who looked like Jude Law gazed into space across the room, whereas a bigshot editor who didn't look like Jude Law ogled my legs. I think there should be a rule that only men who look like Jude Law get to ogle.
- I went to a reception in a publishing house where I hardly knew anybody, and of course the first person I did actually know didn't actually recognise me and the second person I knew got caught up in conversation with his editor. Luckily I had taken along some fellow liggers and changed into my best dress beforehand in a sort of dishwashing cubbyhole. I asked the man in there if it was OK and he didn't mind but said he couldn't close his eyes or his dishes wouldn't get clean. Anyway, the reception was very crowded indeed and there were free sarnies and wine, and complaints about the quality of said freebies. I think there should be a rule that people who get free food and drink should just shut up and enjoy it.
- I went to the indie publishers' party, which was by far the best because any old hoi polloi could go along provided they paid the small cover charge. So I knew shitloads of really cool people there and kept greeting them effusively in a "Hey, I actually know someone!" kind of way. I think there should be a rule that, ummm, loads of people I know go to parties? Am I labouring this one too much?
- I gatecrashed the same publisher's party twice. Turns out it's easier to get in if you're not on the list but accompanied by slightly drunk Germans who are on the list at about 1 a.m. than if you're not on the list but accompanied by very drunk Americans who are on the list at 3.30 a.m. Who'da thought it? Also at said party, I used the classic line: "I'd probably understand you better if I were sober." Always good for impressing important people. And I also let someone wind me up and prompt me to get all petulant and pathetic towards a seriously cool person, but I don't think many people noticed. Apart from said seriously cool person, and he may not remember it all that clearly.
- I had the world's most awesome dinner with more cool people on another expense account, during which we planned the world's most awesome publishing party to unite the nations in, ummm, exchanging clothing, as I recall. And something about oranges, the juicy kind. Damn, I knew we should have written it down.
- I discovered that good editors do not necessarily make good DJs. Sorry, but it's true. That's why they're editors and not internationally renowned disk jockeys jetsetting from Ibiza to New York to Berlin to Jakarta. But they do make good books.
- I discovered the joy of drunken text messaging. May I just take this opportunity to apologise to all those people who got misspelled and pointless missives in the middle of the night? Thanks.
And before you write rude anonymous comments, please consider that my everyday life is about as far removed from all this as you can imagine. Well, OK, I'm not a fruit fly in Addis Abeba, but you know. I'm a translator and I love German books.