Bologna Book Fair: Bent's Notes

Bologna Book Fair: Bent's Notes

There is something that just might make you appreciate that the closest you’ll get to Bologna 2021 is the other end of a video link, where you’ll spend most of the sessions trying to figure out which books are on the shelves behind the seminar talking heads—and end up reading more into them than a conspiracy theorist watching the Zapruder film (“Wait a minute, is that the newest Tom Gates over Belinda Rasmussen’s shoulder? Are Macmillan Children’s trying to poach Pichon? Get me the news desk!”).

You are lucky there is no IRL fair as the mercury will be almost busting out of the thermometer in Bologna, with temperatures forecast to average 34°C (that’s 93°F, Americans, 306° Kelvin, particle physicists). Now, that might be barely tolerable if you’re, say, poolside at the Corona d’Oro having Campari Spritzes served to you by a Speedoed Richard Charkin. But not when you are in the Halls 25 and 26 at the Fiere, which can be a sweaty greenhouse even in March when this thing is normally held, let alone the height of summer.

I mention Mr Charkin as he will be doing a couple of turns for Jacks Thomas’ BolognaBooksPlus (BBP), the new conference stream that is in no way aiming to take business away from, and give two fingers to, Thomas’ former employers. But this BBP also brings—and I can barely write this, it pains me so—people from the undesirable and unseemly adult publishing side to everyone’s favourite kids’ fair. Does this not strike you as outrageous? You adultees have your Londons and Frankfurts, and that chance to really let down your hair every year in party town Sharjah. Why can’t you give us our space? And by space, I mean the already quite difficult-to-get restaurant reservations.

To be fair, though, we’ve had this coming, having lorded Bologna over others from the dark side for ages. “It’s the best fair, you really must go,” we would say, smug in the knowledge that others would never be able to. Now BBP has come along and we can’t be so smug any more. As an aside, every time I think of BolognaBooksPlus coming to the Fat City, the image of the backward baseball cap-wearing, skateboard-toting Steve Buscemi’s “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme pops unbidden into my head.

Maybe next year when there is the return to Bologna—when you surely will be in the majority over your adult sector colleagues— it would be a good time to flip the switch, kids’ publishers: condescend to them, ask “why do still read adult books, don’t you feel silly?” and then decline to review their books in your newspapers.

Still, next year. Those are the magic words. See you then, but I would start making your trattoria bookings now...