With hundreds of events, this year's HK book fair was the best one yet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2011, 12:00am

Paul Lukacs roundly condemned this year's Hong Kong Book Fair ('Flashy, vacuous - and that's just the books', July 26).

I suspect that most of the almost one million book fair visitors take a more positive view of it.

The security and convention centre staff and interns and the police all did an effective job in unobtrusive crowd control.

Mr Lukacs seems perturbed that there was a strong commercial element there, but that is to be expected at a book fair: the 500-plus exhibitors were focused on selling their wares.

Those exhibiting at an antiques fair also naturally have sales to achieve. What's wrong with that?

Many visitors bought piles of books. In that way alone, the fair encourages reading.

Many of the visitors were local youngsters, thus new generations of readers are encouraged.

With so many attendees, a few silly people can be expected to go along for the wrong reasons.

That unwelcome but unavoidable category included a few fame-seeking potential models but also the likes of a lady sitting next to me at a writing seminar, who spent the entire time asleep.

There were also hundreds of free cultural events arranged. These included sessions with distinguished authors on how to write a book.

That provision brought the fair to a level above that of an oversized bookshop, to that of a real literary festival.

Our local patron of the arts, Sir David Tang, personally supported the coming to this year's fair of four eminent English-language writers. The two open Q&A sessions with this panel were a highlight of the fair.

Their always interesting, and often profound, comments on the writing process were much appreciated by the many hundreds of attendees.

The witty repartee between some of the panellists was delectable to observe.

This year's fair had a much enhanced element of English-language writing, with an increased range of English-language materials present. That also serves our world city well.

All in all, the 2011 Hong Kong Book Fair was the best yet.

I am sure the rare detractors, such as Mr Lukacs, will be badly out of step with the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoyed it, and learned from it, as I did.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels


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