Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May, With Mammaries

Last year, I made a deal about the Comédie du Livre, France's second-largst book fair, which just happens to occur on my doorstep, because the campaign to save the Anglophone Library was a presence due to the fact that the partner country was, well, not the U.S. because they couldn't find enough American writers who had books in translation and wanted to attend, so it turned into North America, which included an Ethiopian, a Vietnamese, and a Quebecois. This year, the partner nation was Germany. Imagine my excitement.

And, it turned out, that of the crowd. There were even fewer readers lined up for autographs than last year, even though there seemed to be far more people in attendance, and the weather was sunny and on this delicious cusp of warm and hot. It appears that the reason Germany was picked was because of this being the 50th anniversary of Montpellier choosing Heidelberg as a twin city, much as last year was the 50th anniversary for Louisville. So far, though, we haven't been treated to an exhibition of German photography at the Pavillon Populaire, which is a shame, because there's some real good stuff to choose from, both contemporary and historic. (Willi Römer! Just go google him). Of course, they'd probably pick all the wrong stuff.

As always, the biggest lines, some including people toting luggage filled with books, were at the BD booths. I have yet to penetrate the culture of the bandes dessinées as much as I'd like to. The term covers a wide swath of territory. "Comic book" is insufficient, although comic books like Lucky Luke,  Tintin, and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are included in the term. "Graphic novel" has come to indicate pretentiousness in the U.S., thanks to grim practitioners like Chris Ware, and another recent development (at least in the West), manga, is somewhat warily admitted to the shelter of the BD tent here. I myself am a huge fan of a guy named Jean-Claude Denis, who has a sizeable output for someone with almost no audience, and I hope someday to be able to translate and publish some of his stuff, especially the antics of his antihero Luc Leroi.

Sharing some of the space with the book fair was an encampment in the park just off the Esplanade of scruffy-looking people with cardboard signs urging revolution immediately, "true democracy," and reminding us that "people have died." As is often the case here, the means towards the revolution seemed to be lurking in a can of 9.8% alcohol beer, and most of the dialogue was internal. One bunch of very clean-cut revolutionaries set up a stand with a French-English sign, and I suspect they were LaRouchies, since they seem to be everywhere, ranting incoherently. Anyway, the scruffies seem to have been ousted from the park and are now in residence in the Comédie, ranting through bullhorns as U write this and climbing the fountain of the Three Graces.

Nobody seems overly concerned, although a little old lady did mutter something to me as she passed by with her shopping. The ranters rant for a while, the people on the ground there apply crayons to that cardboard (they have a lot of cardboard), signs urging revolution are stuck onto the side of the fountain, where the wind blows them over, and, at one point, one of the more inebriated revolutionists decided one of the Graces needed some cosmetics and climbed up to redress the lack.

The police seem notably unimpressed, although they do drive through from time to time.

Our pals the street artists are also urging their own sorts of revolution, and I must say I like the way it's expressed, even that I sympathize.

There are several larger-scale examples of this around, but I'm lazy and this is the nearest to my house. Whether it has anything to do with the fact that Gay and Lesbian Pride Days happen this Saturday I can't say, but at least loud disco out on the Comédie is preferable to drunks with bullhorns.

Looks like some travel may be coming up, so the subjects, if not the quality, of the photos may well improve in subsequent posts.

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