Monday, 5 July 2010

Katy Goes to a Book Preview

So I was aware of the existence of these events. They're kind of like the equivalent of the promotional fluffy gonk in the book world. Presumably publishers offset them against tax. Because what they do is, they invite a whole load of journos to listen to a writer, and to make sure they come they ply them with wine and finger food.

So being forever on the margins of the publishing industry - kind of like Mary Poppins, providing an essential service and very well loved but still never part of the actual family - translators don't get invited to these previews. Except me. Because I know a writer and I bumped into her on the street yesterday and she said, Hey, come to my book preview tomorrow!

So I did. And given that this is Berlin and the Berliners love to dress down, I thought I'd dress up - because how often do you get sort of kind of invited to an inner-city villa where Max Frisch used to hang out? Unfortunately the chance to wear my favourite dress was the only good thing about the evening apart from the ending, which I shall reveal in due course.

So for various reasons I missed the actual reading. And the interview session with a renowned journalist. I'm told it went well. But I arrived in time for the hanging out with wine and finger food. And here's the deal: it was truly and utterly dull. I don't know whether everyone else found it truly and utterly dull. Maybe they were having an amazing time exchanging pleasantries about the olives. Maybe they all knew each other and were catching up on some fascinating gossip. Maybe they all took classes at journalism and publishing school on how to enjoy shallow smalltalk and lukewarm white wine. What do I know? I'm only Mary Poppins.

So I beat a hasty retreat, seeing as the only person I knew was the writer, and it was kind of work for her, and also she was talking to someone I recently trashed on my blog. And here comes the good bit: I stole a book (not the one in question – I already have that) on the way out, and then got fantastically, pornographically soaked in a rainstorm on the way home.

So yeah, once again I'm mystified by the inner workings of the publishing world. I can see the point: a spot of mild bribery to soften up the critics. But I can't see what the critics get out of it other than a reading and an otherwise excruciatingly dull evening out. OK, they get a free book. But surely the publishers could just send them out by post and spare everyone the agony?

Update: By Jove, I think I've got it. It's all psychological. The journalists get invited to an exclusive preview. And they get to flirt with publishing people, and they get actually invited to an inner-city villa where Max Frisch used to hang out. And one of their number does some of their research for them to present the book and interview the writer. And it gets them out of the house, or the editorial office. And they can pretend to the publishing people that their lives are thrilling and worth envying. While the publishing people pretend the same thing back.

No comments: