Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Not the London Book Fair

Damn, I missed it. I emailed someone in New York today at around 4 o’clock and got an auto-response saying she was at the LBF, a couple of miles down the road from here, but it closed today at six and that’s that. I did think about going, up to last Friday when they were still offering discounted tickets, but then remembered the one time I did go, a couple of years ago, when it was in east London: the next-door emporium was hosting a trade fair involving cosmetics, and though I did go through the right (books) door I’m not sure there was much difference – catalogues, clashing colours, flimsy stalls and partitions, meetings involving calculators, the men in suits and the women with lots of make-up. Plus a few books, but no one reading them.

Anyway, I’ve already exceeded my book-sociability limit for the month. Last Wednesday night a poetry reading: one of the readers I’ve known for donkey’s years and the space (the Calder bookshop) was small and the organisation improvised and the poems, many of them, clear and piercing. Thursday the launch(?) of a book on the St Ives artists, where I got stuck, and then realised very happily stuck, with a tiny 80-odd-year-old woman in an ancient coat and brand-new running shoes: we talked about an artist she’d once known (Harry? Terry, we eventually worked out, Terry Frost), the casualties (60,000) on the first day of the Somme in 1916 and how much Cherie Blair pays for her handbags. I doubt I’d have met her at the LBF.

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