Sunday 6 November 2016

The Small Publishers Fair 2016

Banishing thoughts of Trump and the future of liberal democracy I spent yesterday afternoon at the Conway Hall in Holborn, browsing contentedly and spending more than I can afford at the Small Publishers Fair. Held very November, it brings together many of the best independent publishers in the country for two days. It's not a book fair, although there are books in abundance, but printed works of all kinds - broadsheets, mono prints, postcards, pamphlets and limited edition artworks.

More than sixty publishers and hundreds of visitors crowded into this lovely venue, which is the headquarters of the British Humanist Association and smack in the middle of one of my favourite parts of the city, a very habitable neighbourhood.

Image © Conway Hall

There was a fascinating exhibition curated by Ross Hair, the author of Avant-Folk: Small Press Poetry Networks from 1950 to the Present. This academic volume from Liverpool University Press comes at an eye-watering price (even allowing for the discount on the day) and is very much my kind of thing - I have several shelves of books about so-called Little Magazines, as well as complete runs of (e.g.) Horizon, John Lehmann's New Writing, The Review, the New Review and others - my default reading. My 'thin continuous dream' (in Larkin's phrase) is to assemble a comprehensive library of poetry published in Britian between 1939 and 1945 including all the magazines. Some things happen - this one never will.

Lara Pawson read from her recent memoir This is the Place to Be, and read wonderfully. I'm re-reading this at the moment - and should add 'memoir' isn't really the word. It was reviewed by Lara Feigel in the TLS here.

The author spoke about her work with the theatre group Forced Entertainment, and how this led to the book. Intriguingly she had been advised to read (among others) Joe Brianead and Georges Perec (both writers explored the potential of associative memory. Brainard developed a technique that Perec perfected, and which I have enthusiastically ripped off on several occasions. She also said she had been hugely impressed by Ágota Kristóf's The Notebook.  This astonishing novel - published in 1986 - is one I've just re-read in  single sitting (easy to do as it's a brisk 130 pages). There's no harsher or more satisfying work of fiction, and it's one that speaks to us today more than ever. I'll be blogging about the book tomorrow.

I came back from Conway Hall with a bag full of good things. Christmas pretty much sorted.

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