Sunday, 12 October 2014

A Thing I Hated at the Book Fair

You're at the Frankfurter Hof. The entire front garden and lobby of this large hotel are seething with publishers, scouts, agents and editors. You're not a publisher or a scout or an agent or even an editor. You're there with friends who are also none of the above. Most importantly – or at least it begins to feel increasingly important as the evening goes on – you're a woman. Here are the things that happen:

First your friends take a photo of your shoes, which are hot. You are a complicit party to this embarrassment because yes, your shoes are hot and you're proud you can walk in them. Next you get a ridiculously overpriced drink, avoiding the main bar at the back of the overheated lobby because you remember it being kind of creepy last time you were here. You stand outside the door in a crush of people, some of whom you know and like. You spot an internet phenomenon looking awkward and decide it would be just plain embarrassing to say hello like some kind of fangirl. You wonder why the internet phenomenon has made such a public fuss in advance about being here and then you notice he is flanked by aggressive-looking men with name-tags proclaiming them to be agents. It appears to be some kind of industry meet 'n' greet in advance of a rights auction. You wonder whether the internet phenomenon is complicit in his own moral bankruptcy – although aren't we all? – and whether he is deliberately here so he can tell stories about how morally bankrupt he and the publishing industry are. You wonder why you are here. Your braver/drunker friend does go over and tells you later that the internet phenomenon seemed genuinely nice and actually listened to what she had to say, which makes you feel happy and sad for the internet phenomenon at the same time.

You wander inside to get another overpriced drink and refuse to tip the bartender because you object to the hideous price policy of making everything cost one euro short of a banknote in a transparent attempt to wash more cash into the coffers of the Steigenberger hotel chain. Although of course if you were working here you'd want to fleece the punters for all you could get and probably the Steigenberger hotel chain is not paying these people all that well, so you probably ought to tip them because it's hardly their fault. You spot someone else you know and she introduces you to someone and you don't catch the name of his publishing house but he asks you to recommend something and you do but it has to be the blandest book you can think of because of course you have no idea what he's looking for, but that seems OK because it's not like he notes it down or anything. You head outside again once your new acquaintance starts talking about "good schools", which is a subject that instantly raises your hackles and you really don't want to punch anyone.

On your way through the crowd you pick up several glances that seem – to you, at least – to be saying: "I am an important man and have looked your body up and down and am herewith granting my official approval. You should be grateful." It's not the first time this has happened in your life and not the first time it's happened at this fair. You ignore the glances. What would be the desired response? How would you like to respond? You don't even know.

Back outside, a man with a very loud voice and a whisky large enough to have been very expensive indeed is telling the assembled company that the bar at the back of the overheated lobby is "actual hell". It is crowded with old men and young women and guess which ones have the money, he says. An old man stretched his arm around the shoulders of the man with the very loud voice in order to paw a young woman and ask her what she wanted to drink, and that was what convinced him the place was "actual hell". You realize – and remember from the last time you were here – that the man with the very loud voice is absolutely right but you hate him for scoring points by saying it, especially because he is over thirty and this seems to be the first time he's been pawed by an old man.

People you have genuinely liked in other situations are now beginning to morph into apparently odious human beings. There is the usual abandonment in favour of more important conversation partners. There is a young man telling you that having a baby is easy, which freaks you out because your hackles are well and truly up now and you can't countenance the idea that it may be a joke, and you respond with passive aggression by telling a third party that men who say things like that can fucking fuck off and come back to you when they're tried it out themselves. There is a suggestion to call a publisher whom you and presumably everyone else knows to be a horrible person so that he can buy a round of drinks. He doesn't answer his phone though and people joke that he's having a party in his hotel room with his unpaid interns.

You're beginning to positively despise everyone here with their stinking hypocrisy. You wonder whether any of them are actually enjoying themselves and why they are here in the first place. You begin to hate your friends. You wonder whether you are actually enjoying yourself. You clearly aren't. You begin to hate yourself for being here. You go to the ladies' for a little mental space because by now you really do want to punch someone. There's no toilet paper. Fourteen euros for a bland gin and tonic and no toilet paper in the ladies'. You stalk back out through the crowd of braying jackals in dark blue suits to a taxi. You do tip the taxi driver because no, none of it is his fault and you can't very well walk home in your hot shoes.  

2 comments:

geomiller65 said...

I haven't been since going freelance several years ago and most years I experience a small twinge in early October at the prospect of missing it. But this brings it all back and is quite effective inoculation for moments when I might find myself longing for room-temperature Sekt and a giant pretzel. (Though I realise it is to be read in conjunction with the 'Things I Loved' post.)

Fawad Umair said...

i really like german books and german culture.
germany the place of hitler.

Romantic novels