Design of the Week | Literature at the Frankfurt Book Fair
I attended the Frankfurt Book Fair October 19th through the 22nd, which this year attracted nearly 150,000 trade visitors and 280,000 visitors in general. Even with it being my second year, it's still intimidating. In 2015, I was fairly anxious, rushing from meeting to meeting, trying to figure out which hall was where. The convention center that hosts the fair is like nothing I've ever seen: like a spaceship parked beside five or more conjoined convention centers. And the carpeting looks as though it was handpicked by Stanley Kubrick. (The picture above is only Hall 3 and the walkway connecting Hall 3 to Hall 4.) There isn't a ton of space granted for actual literature at the festival, so it's always affirming when you meet someone new who is like-minded.
Publishers Weekly was very generous in naming me one of five finalists for their "Star Watch" program this year. There are similar programs sponsored by the Frankfurt Book Fair in four other countries: Brazil, China, Germany, and the UK. At a reception for the "rising stars" program at the fair, I met Gustavo Faraon, who runs an indie press called Dublinense and was a finalist in Brazil. He's publishing some interesting literary fiction in his country, all the more commendable because of the obstacles small presses face in the trade industry there, which sound much more substantial than they are for us in the U.S.
At the reception, I also met Daniel Beskos of Mairisch Verlag, who was the winner of the German program. Mairisch publishes striking books and an eclectic list, from a history of outer space, to graphic novels, and books about cooking. Beskos started "Indie Book Day," which has since become a cultural phenomenon in Germany, occurring annually on March 26. The day encourages readers to purchase an independently published book and post a picture of it to social media. Originally just his friends, their facebook group ballooned to include thousands of people all across Europe.
Gustavo introduced me to another publisher from Brazil, Lote 42, run by Cecilia Arbolave and Joao Varella. Lote 42 publishes graphic novels, essays on popular music, and crime fiction, but with a quirky and adventurous spirit. For instance, the crime fiction is actually a case file of a crime—a literal case file—with all the miscellany that goes into a criminal investigation, from witness interrogations, to internal emails, to forensic reports. Lote 42 also runs a newsstand in downtown Sao Paolo called Banca Tatui where they sell theirs and other books, and host readings and concerts on their rooftop (pictured above).
There are those other presses that I gravitate towards, like Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, but it was great meeting some new folks doing cool work that I dig.