It Helps to Have a Sense of Humor [Frankfurt, Day One]

Although today is the first day in which all eight halls are buzzing with excitement (or hangovers . . . whatever), the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair officially kicked off yesterday with the TOC Frankfurt conference, the International Digital Rights Symposium, the Opening Ceremony, dozens of agent meetings at the Frankfurt Hof, and a bunch of receptions. (All of which is true, but the real Frankfurt starts around 1am when all the cool kids descend on “The Hof” for overpriced drinks and witty banter.)

I was only at TOC in the morning, and although it’s true that it was kind of the same old thing we’ve heard over and over (digital is the future! be prepared! ebooks sell! long-form narrative must adapt! videogames, videogames, videogames!), the keynote speeches were pretty solid. I particularly liked Douglas Rushkoff’s talk, which isn’t much of a surprise considering I interviewed him about his new book and TOC beforehand, and am a HUGE fan of Life, Inc. and Program or Be Programmed. But seriously, he was a bit of foil to a lot of the other presentations, urging people to slow down and think about how the biases of technologies and how that can impact our lives. He also had an awesome moment when, during his spot-analysis of the overall book trade and publishing’s incompatibility with the profit demands of holding companies, he stated that the industry will probably shrink by 40% and that the only people who have to work in books are those who absolutely love books. Paraphrasing here, but basically if you don’t love books, you should go make money elsewhere, and that book people “just want enough to get by until the end.”

All sweet sentiments in stark contrast to vibe that one gets in the Agents’ Center . . . And probably a pipedream. Although one that John Oakes of OR Books believes in as well. . . .

Speaking of which, as has been mentioned on here about a billion times, I’m helping put together this year’s Publishing Perspectives Show Daily. I’m totally biased, but I think today’s issue (and what I’ve read of Thursday’s and Friday’s) is damn good. Definitely check it out. (And Ed would knife me if I didn’t mention that while you’re reading this, you should also subscribe to their free daily e-newsletter.) I only have one piece in today’s issue, but it’s about Oakes and OR Books, one of my new favorite presses.1

Post-TOC, post-Digital Rights, post-closing Publishing Perspectives, the real fun started . . . Boris Kachka (who wrote this piece on the end of publishing) is here doing research on his biography of Roger Straus. So obviously, he had to go check out the party scene at the Hessischer Hof and the Frankfurter Hof, et cetera, et cetera. And since he’s never been to Frankfurt, I decided to make it my responsibility to help show him around. But before hitting the Hofs, we first went to a reception to celebrate the announcement that Russia is the “Market Focus” for the 2011 London Book Fair. It was a nice enough reception . . . until the Russian press officer started explaining all of the details related to book production and sales in Russia. The info was useful and all, but man, was that boring as shit. A cocktail reception just isn’t the place to hold forth for thirty plus minutes of dry lecturing . . . No offense intended, but everyone who was in there was sending eye-telegraphs and trying to get the hell out and get over to the Hessischer Hof and the Hachette party.

It wasn’t until we were on the Hessischer Hof stairs, after sneaking out one-by-one and exchanging a ton of jokes about just how uncomfortable that was, what with the closed door, the speechifying, the heat, the no drinking . . . It was only once we hit the stairs at the Hessischer Hof that I realized we had left Boris behind with the boring Russian speech . . .

And so. He eventually caught up, although I think I owe him like $70 in roaming charges . . .

1 One of the coolest articles Publishing Perspectives ever did on Frankfurt is this piece by Erin Cox on “Handy German Phrases.” Some of these are totally useful, but she somehow managed to leave out most of the best ones from the “sex” section of the phrasebook she’d referenced in creating this. I have to say, I’m sort of shocked by what Lonely Planet decided to include . . . . Here are my personal favorites:

Take this off. (Zieh das aus!)

Touch me here. (Beruhr mich hier!)

Let’s go to bed! (Gehen wir ins Bett!)

I can’t get it up—sorry. (Ich krieg ihn nicht hoch-tut mir Leid!)

Easy tiger! (Sachte!)

Don’t worry, I’ll do it myself. (Gib dir keine Muhe, ich mach es mir selbst.)

It helps to have a sense of humor. (Mit Humor geht alles besser.)

That was weird. (Das war seltsam.)

Will you live with me? (Willst du mit mir zusammenleben?)

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