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5 April 2015


That's where I was from the 19th to the 23rd of March from 10am to 8pm every day, behind stand Number B46. All because I heard about the Salon by chance the week before it opened and, on the spur of the moment, decided I had to be there.

Salon du Livtre Paris 2015

This is a major international book fair and it was extremely unlikely that any stands would still be available - they are generally booked a year in advance. I got on the phone to the organisers and demanded the smallest possible space in the Art Square section where, according to the website, there would be livres d'artiste exhibitors. As luck would have it Stand B46 was not taken. I took it. Too late for inclusion in the already printed catalogue but an online mention was posted. The Old Stile Press generously agreed to share the cost of my coup de tête and I took plenty of OSP publicity along with copies of the three books we have collaborated on: RevelationScenes from the Life of Jesus and, of course, the newly minted Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France.

Stand B46-Salon du Livre 2015

Pushing the button which activates my inner robot I sprang into Organiser Mode, booked Eurostar tickets, obtained instructions for collecting keys to my sister's flat in Paris, bought a new lightweight wheelie suitcase to carry heavy books, ordered business cards and ...ah... that's when I noticed my outer robot was not as springy as it used to be. On the way to collect the cards all the way across London, the tube suddenly stopped abruptly and I fell, hard, onto my right side. Sharp pain in the ribs but, lifted up by kind passengers, I went on my way with no further ado. Further ado came later when cracked ribs began protesting every movement they were forced to make before, during and after unpremeditated jaunt to a book fair, of all things unsuited to dodgy ribs. Fortunately I could take advantage of the situation by asking for Assistance getting on and off Eurostar and was hugely impressed by their efficiency in this respect.

Did I enjoy the whole experience? No. Would I do it again? No. Was it worth doing? Yes, absolutely. Reasons why it was not enjoyable: cracked ribs. Freezing cold inside the huge hall (heating out of order). Not the right ambiance for showing/selling this kind of book. Bad/expensive snack food at the fair. Interminable hours sitting & standing. Long daily metro journeys to and fro. Awkward and off-piste position of stand B46 at first.

One of a few (not good) snacking areas.

Snacks at salon

Reasons why it was worthwhile: excellent contacts established. Meetings with some very interesting and sympathique individuals. One sale and potentially more to come. Sincere, deeply touching comments from many who stopped by. Everyone, regardless of background or age (including adolescents) was familiar with the writings of Blaise Cendrars and admired our version of Trans-Siberian. Fellow exhibitors in the immediate vicinity were without exception friendly and supportive. And, on the third day, out of the blue, a Salon official came over and told me to get ready fast because he was moving B46 to a much better position. Delighted and puzzled as to why this hadn't been done sooner since the space had been free before, I shifted my stuff pronto to the wider area with much improved visibility.

The signs and prints on the left belonged to another exhibitor. 

B46 in better position

In the past I've had stands at book fairs in America, in the UK, in Germany and in France and I've never ever liked playing the role of sales/PR person for my own work or being in those high-pressure environments. But one thing makes up for innumerable discomforts: the special people one encounters. For this reason I'm grateful to the inspiration which led me to the Paris Salon du Livre 2015.

Demonstrations of litho printing were given by a master printer.


litho printing demo

Many talks took place during the fair, at very loud volume and often all at the same time.

Bibliophile talking heads

School children arrived in vast numbers. (Note Trans-Sib in foreground)

Young readers at Salon

African poets performed with music and song.

African poets performing

Back home, ribs settling down, I'm gradually catching up with loads of things left undone when I rushed off, hence my poor blogging performance. Isn't it pretentious and silly to think that blogging or not blogging matters one jot to the universe?

In the universe on Saturday, a wonderful visit from the Lucy and the Tom, both of them together this time. No matter how well you think you know blogger friends you've been reading for some time, their physical presence adds details which neither photos or mental pictures can ever fill in. It was my second 'live' meeting with Tom and my first with Lucy: all the fine qualities she expresses in Box Elder were manifest while entirely new ones were added. Tom, temporarily but frustratingly incapacitated by an injured foot, was still in fine form and we three enjoyed much laughter as well as more than one glass of wine chez moi and with lunch at The Junction across the street. Thanks be to real friendship in the real world.

Lucy and Tom

As this Easter day ends I wish you, my friends known and unknown, a springtime renascence. And what could be more life-affirming than the Kemptons' seriously smiling faces.

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