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Fair and loathing

In the first of a series of blogs, Jamie Byng, Managing Director of the independent publisher Canongate Books, offers some insights into why he´s

"If you are tired of Frankfurt, you are tired of life"

I love Frankfurt with a passion but one of the best things about it is that it does end! This year I decided to fly back home on Saturday morning so I'm writing...

I love Frankfurt with a passion but one of the best things about it is that it does end! This year I decided to fly back home on Saturday morning so I’m writing this from the relative calm of London but the last 24 hours have been pretty crazed and somehow I’ve managed to get back in one piece despite trying my hardest to do otherwise.

Each year the punishing schedule that everyone is on takes its toll and come Friday you start to see casualties. Voices are mashed, eyes are red, people are late for appointments, and some have trouble stringing their words together! The tempo escalates in the course of the week culminating in particularly wild carousing on Friday and Saturday night.

This year has been no exception.

Friday evening started gently enough after I got the bloody blog out of the way which was a particularly hurried (and I felt incoherent) one.

The party for Nick Cave was a lot of fun and with a really nice turnout and Nick charmed everyone and also did a great reading from Bunny Munro, selecting a reasonably filthy extract to read which unsurprisingly went down well. It was also lovely for all Nick’s publishers to meet him and vica versa and the whole vibe could not have been more informal and relaxed.

Helge Malchow then hosted a lovely dinner at Grand Cru for Nick and seven of his publishers. After the party/reading it was nice to be able to unwind and talk in a small group, drinking delicious wines and sharing stories. I also shook hands with Nick’s wonderful Brazilian publisher, Luciana Boas, on a deal for her to publish Matt Haig’s The Radleys. The importance of these evening activities at Frankfurt should not be underestimated. It was at a birthday dinner on Tuesday night that I had spoken at length with Claudio Lopez Delamadrid about The Radleys which he was loving and the following morning he pre-empted the Spanish rights for Mondadori.

After dinner we decided to give the zoo with alcohol that is the Frankfurterhof a big layby as it’s just not pleasant around midnight, preferring the relative calm of Jimmy’s Bar which I knew would be more up Nick’s street. The first person I see there is Andrew Wylie and so I introduce them to one another, aware that they are both close to Lou Reed. They seemed to get a kick out of the meeting, Andrew’s opening line about Lou being „Lou gave me my first fix“ and Nick texting me this am to say „I loved meeting The Jackal – he’s got a good look going, great predatory smile“. More and more great people turn up and the margaritas start to flow and there’s a real party atmosphere building.

The only spanner in the works is the piano player who murders a version of Happy Birthday Mr President and does even worse crimes by encouraging some loud Germans to start singing along to show tunes.

Nick wants to head to bed as he has a big show in Hamburg the following night and so we say our farewells. He seems to have had a really good time which is important but it’s sad to see him go as he is so much fun to hang out with. I miss him. But soon reinforcements arrive in the shape of Morgan Entrekin and Gary Fisketjon and Fabio Muzifalconi and others and things start to properly unravel from there. I’m then kidnapped by two friends who persuade me to go to the Dumont party which is a great decision as there are many people there who are intent on having as much fun as they can. The irrepressible Miguel Aguilar persuades me that drinking a succession of tequilas is a good idea and before I know it the posse of deviants I know and love so much are all there (Olivia, Ravi, Cath, Lisa, Francis, Patrizia). The dancing and drinking gets wilder and wilder until we hit dawn and the party’s over.

It’s a great way to end this year’s fair.

Frankfurt is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. Every year I get to the end and I am knackered but also feeling very mellow because I am tired and relaxed and I have worked and partied incredibly hard and covered a lot of ground. This year has been an especially productive fair and as well as hearing about some very interesting sounding books (one of which I am reading now and loving and have a feeling we might try and acquire) it has been a fantastic fair for selling our titles. I think The Radleys is going to end up becoming a monster hit worldwide.

It’s so smart and funny and well-written and has serious crossover potential.

But more than anything I have just loved reconnecting with hundreds and hundreds of friends from around the world who inspire me and make me laugh and from whom I learn so much. The thought of publishing without Frankfurt is inconceivable to me and I come away from it every year reinvigorated and reminded of why publishing is such a gorgeous struggle and humbling privilege. Bring on 2010!