I didn’t know quite what to expect at the “Inspire!” Book Fair, but five minutes after arriving, I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Here was a site set up like a cozy lounge. Over there was a walk-through, cavelike structure depicting a Narnia-esque environment. And across the room, Margaret Atwood spoke on stage. Margaret Atwood! I didn’t know where to look first. My momentary giddiness and indecisiveness were fortunately resolved by the fact that I had a purpose – to help man Quattro’s booth in the Discovery Pavilion on the main level.
Although I stayed at the booth for the better part of four hours, I think my experience there was mirrored throughout the fair. Potential buyers wandered amongst the booths, casually curious, picking up a book or chatting with a representative from a publishing house. Nearby, poets recited their latest work as part of a Literary Slam. (“Ok, and the score for this was … 8.6!”) Authors mingled with publishers and buyers. Lucinda Johnston, author of Costume and Bone, graciously stayed by the Quattro booth to talk about her book and sign copies, but was as excited as any other book lover to have a book she’d purchased autographed by the author. And author Louis-Phillippe Hebert, whose book The Girl Before, The Girl After was translated by Jonathan Kaplansky and published by Quattro, read one of his recent poems and asked us to critique his English.
One of the highlights of my last trip to Paris was looking at – just looking at – the food. I swear. The display of eclairs, macarons, and profiteroles in a Patisserie window is so beautiful it’s almost satisfying enough to just look at. Almost, because of course, you end up buying. I think the secret is that the French have a passion for food, and it shows. The reason I mention this is because I think the same appreciation was in evidence at the Inspire! Book Fair. The love of books was everywhere: in the quality of the booths, the variety of publications, the amount of speakers. Whether one was attending as a buyer, a publisher, or an author, the common interest in books was clearly seen.
If everyone had the same experience I did at the Fair, I am confident it was a huge success.