"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Frankfurt Bookspeak

While we are on the subject of the idiocies of the book business there was a very funny article in last Friday's Le Monde des Livres by Alain Beuve-Méry decoding the things people say at the Frankfurt Book Fair (and based apparently on an anonymous photocopy doing the rounds). The English used there is, he said, un idiome très particulier. For example to describe a book as "literary" means "people might like it but it will be harder to sell". Worse than this is "experimental" which decoded means "unreadable, difficult to sell, and possibly capable of pleasing a few critics". A book that is said to have "wonderful descriptions" is probably "boring and useless". If it comes garlanded with "excellent recommendations" this means that "other authors represented by the same agency declare it's a masterpiece". "I'm expecting an offer" means. "I haven't had a flicker of interest from anyone." One of my favourites is: "It's completely different from his last one" which really says: "His previous books did not sell well." And: "I couldn't stop reading it," means "I had to stay up all night reading the thing in order to put in a bid the next morning." Finally: "It was so good I immediately had to read it again." What this is saying is: "I could make no sense of it at a first reading." I'm glad to learn that publishing folk have, after all, a sense of humour.

1 comment:

Mark Thwaite said...

Yup, that all rings VERY true!