This is probably the most frequently asked question I have to answer. “What, organising a one week long festival takes a whole year? You must be doing something else!” I suppose I could. Some would even say, I should. I could say I’m also a writer but won’t speak about my project out of superstition. No one would know better. But no, I will be honest: it’s just JBW but only 3 days a week at the moment. Of course, reading time is not done in the office but I am not going to complain about this.
The last week has been most interesting for a book lover like me. I’ve been house hunting and could not believe the number of places I visited which did not include books or shelves. Maybe these people go to the library rather than buy books but I’m afraid they don’t read at all, a most scary thought. The big flat screen reigns supreme, often accompanied by a slightly smaller version in the bedroom (my reading sanctuary!). It’s no surprise that the place we finally fell in love with had books everywhere and a half hidden TV in the remotest part of the house.
I was similarly shocked when the Icelandic volcano took us back to a time before air travel to notice nobody mentioned the London International Book Fair. And yet, this is a highlight of the publishing year, second to the Frankfort Book Fair in the autumn, a time when publishers from all over the world flock to London to trade titles. Don’t go there if you are an author or a reader, it’s too depressing. This is just about the commerce of books and mostly of the kinds this blog’s readers would not even think of acquiring. I visited the fair on Tuesday and the usually bustling Earl’s Court halls were eerily quiet. Apart from French publishers, there were not many foreigners around, and do expect a flurry of French titles in English in 18 months or so, the same way there is a baby book after a power cut. The Spanish stand had books but no one to talk about them, some stands were completely empty. I felt terribly sorry for the organisers and all involved. Erupting volcanos will have to be added to my list of nightmarish thoughts in the run up to our next festival.
Talking of the next JBW, we have invited Michelle Cameron who will come from the US to talk about her lovely book, The Fruit of Her Hands, The story of Shira of Ashkenaz, the fictional wife of a real 13th century scholar, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg. It is a fascinating novel and I did learn a lot about Jewish communities of the time in France, Britain, Germany and beyond. I did not know the Talmud had been burnt in Paris for instance. To know more about her and her book, do visit her website and don’t miss her when she comes to JBW 2011 (26 February – 6 March).