I visited the Gothenburg Book Fair for the first time because of my new book. The Academy of Letters needed people to put on the Researcher’s Square stage, and conveniently one of their staff had just published a book with them – me. When the local organiser saw me she did a double take because I was way younger than she had come to expect from the Academy.
The book fair, as I understand it, exists to let publishers and writers communicate with each other and their customers, and also to entertain and inform these customers. The main convention hall is packed with display booths and throngs of people. Often someone in the booth, preferably a celebrity, talks to the standers-by on a mike, and so the din is pretty awful. Giving my 15-minute stage presentation felt like I was at a cattle market, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the audience reacted as if they heard what I said and found it interesting. (You have no idea how much audience love you can get just by not reading from a script.) I also had ample time to check out the booths of those few organisations that interest me and talk to acquaintances, and spent most of today handing out leaflets for the Swedish Skeptics. My voice, already shaky from a cold, is in shreds.
Largely, I felt about the book fair like I feel about the magazine racks at news agents. Sooo much stuff that I don’t give a damn about or feel actively hostile towards. In fact, I find that the whole Swedish-language media business is of little interest to me, which made it all the more incomprehensible how the reading public adores a lot of these writers and journalists and broadcasters. There was just any number of these strictly Swedish celebs around, people on bar stools in booths that I am aware of but do not give a flipping shit about. I don’t know if their books are any good and I am not tempted to find out because they treat themes of no interest to me. So the best moments of my Gothenburg stay were time spent with my skeptical peeps and other friends.
Thinking about it though, I realise that the reason that I’m so down on the Swedish media is that I can’t help receiving them to some extent full-spectrum, indiscriminately. I would hate the UK media if I lived in the UK and the US media if I lived there. It’s just that with them, from here, I can partake selectively. The great majority of Anglophone media products, that would leave me bored or angry, never cross my horizon.