Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Porto Alegre bookfair 2

Otacilia shepherds and mothers me around, arranging this and that and paying for meals that are not paid for by the Bookfair - which paid my accommodation, taxis, and most of the food in Porto Alegre. The flight down here was paid for by DCL but I was met at the aiport by an 'angel' (it's what they call them) from the bookfair wh helped me change my return flight so it goes to Curitiba and not straight back to Sao Paulo - I do not want to return there for a while.

We had a meal in the evening at the worst restaurant I've ever been to for years. Supposedly posh and exclusive, and right by the bookfair's stalls in a main square. The waiter forgot my beer; then the vegetarian pasta had a slab of meat hidden beneath it; when I returned it, they took ages to bring another, by which time everyone else had finished eating; and this had far too much salt in it to be edible. In compensation they gave me a chocolate pudding. This rather skewed my diet since earlier in the afternoon, the same crowd went to a cafe in the art gallery which only served cheesecakes. I ordered one, ate it, and then the owner discovered who I was and wanted me to sign a copy of my book for her in exchange for another pudding, this tie a lemony cheesecake. I was stuffed.

Unfortunately I was taken back to the same restaurant the next morning by Ricardo, the chief press officer for the bookfair, who was very enthusiastic about my work and my talk and the one who wrote the glowing review (well he would wouldn't he). He suffered from polio since the age if nine months and walked on crutches, but is really well, strong and on his second family. He asked me a lot about my beliefs about technology. And what science fiction and writers should be writing about.

When I explain my theory of SF here - the part containing the 'America dreaming' imperialist fantasy idea of Star Trek and Star Wars, everyne understands it. They all profess to hate America. Yet they all drink Coke - especially Otacilia. In fact at the evening meal, everyone drank fizzy drinks and no one drank alcohol with their meal - on a Saturday night. Try finding teetotal publishers and writers after a bookfair in England. About as likely as finding a panda in a pine forest. But American culture is naturally ubiquitous here and insidious regardless. Disney titles, its stories well known for plagiarising and corrupting local myths in favour of its sanitised, sentimentalised versions, is the best selling of DCL's lines, and Otacilia admits the irony of this - it provides one third of their income and allows them to finance other imprints including Lighthouse, the one which publishes Hibridos. They hate it but can't do without it.

After leaving Ricardo I return to the hotel, passing burnt out buildings which the city can't afford to renovate. It reminds me of Nwcastle, or Liverpool. I wait with the taxi driver for ages for a third passenger to go to the airport. The second is a Parisian academic who writes about cities and planning - he tells me he has never visited a favela. I think he can't really know then what South American cities are really like. I want to visit one. He says he wouldn't feel safe. But I know you can get a guide.

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