Book lovers may well imagine that the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest literary marketplace, is a kind of nirvana–commercial, sure, but nonetheless a jaw-dropping testament to the continuing relevance of books and writers.
Those book lovers have not yet read Carole Cadwalladr’s lively, sobering report on this year’s fair (“‘It’s carnage…’ Inside the genteel world of books,’” Observer):
But then there’s nothing like going to Frankfurt to make you think that publishing is only very peripherally about writers, anyway. They’re simply the manufacturers of the ‘product’, and wandering around Frankfurt’s eight vast ‘halls’ – spaces which would comfortably accommodate a fleet of 747s and have enough room left over for a couple of municipal libraries in the corner – is a salutary lesson in just how many other manufacturers of product there are, and just how much product.
And if that doesn’t tell you what you’re in for, here’s another sample:
Oh, the writers. What becomes abundantly clear from Frankfurt is that if you’ve got a book inside, it’s really not a bad idea to keep it there. Why does anybody even want to be a writer? And I say that as one.
‘No writer should ever go to Frankfurt. It’s soul-destroying. You see writers being traded like pork bellies.’
‘You look around and you think the world needs another book like it needs a hole in the head.’