Is “Book Fair” an oxymoron?

Rachel Ng’s article Hong Kong Book Fair in Muse adds to the recent discussion about the appearance of teenage models in the book fair and the event in general. Her comments hit the spot:

“These pint-sized celebrities [referring to the teen models], they said, don’t belong here. I can’t say I agree. Rather, what disturbed me was how well these plastic dolls, preening for the cameras, fitted right in.”

“The thing about the Book Fair is, as its name suggests, it’s a marriage of misfits. A ‘fair’ is everything reading culture is disdainful of: commercialism, carnivalesque good fun and crowd-pleasing environment.”

“This year, for example, mainland writer Han Han made an appearance. Han, who spends half his time on the internet writing scathing comments about government bureaucracy, the thwarted values of the media and China’s increasing materialism, is now invited to an event that more or less represents all of those things.”

“The problem lies in one simple, but absurd premise the Book Fair is based on: to promote reading as if it were any other commercial product.”

“But none of this changes the fact that reading is about thinking and feeling, and most of all, thinking and feeling on one’s own terms. It is, has always been, and will stay primarily a solitary activity. And this solitary space… is what you will never find at the Book fair.”


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