Chronicle of an unfortunate book launch

Launching a new book is usually a happy occasion. There is never a question on the amount of time, sweat and tears that the author spent on the new creation and most of all, authors want everybody to know what they have achieved. Fair enough I say, especially when this involves years and years of research that come to an end in the form of a book.

That is how book launches must be and feel on paper. But the one I attended was different. The book is called México sabe México (something like Mexico tastes Mexico) and it is an anthology of 50 worth reading Mexican authors.

The session had as special guest a remarkably well-known Mexican writer, Margo Glantz, who arrived 25 min late. Now that’s a start. The panel had her in the middle, and two wonderful British academics who spoke only about how unique Margo was and how they all met in London back in the 1970s and how great her work is, and so on. The author of the book, Concepción Zayas, was nowhere to be seen as she was merged in the audience which gathered in King’s College’s Anatomy Theatre .

Margo started her presentation by talking about two authors. She said “One that is included in the anthology: Sergio Pitol and one that is not included in the book: Mario Bellatin.” (Strike one!) Then she started reading and reading and reading until half the auditorium was either asleep or looking for the nearest fire exit.

40 min into the “book launch” and nobody had mentioned a) who were the 50 writers featured in the book and  b) why were they chosen.

After Margo Glantz finished reading, there were a few more comments from the panel before opening the floor for questions from the public. Question 1 obviously goes to Margo. She’s asked why did she chose to send that text to Dr. Zayas and if it had a particular meaning or relevance for her. The answer? “Oh, well it was one I had handy, sitting there, so I sent it”. (Strike 2!) I thought ” You are certainly making Dr. Zayas feel really comfortable now”.

An hour went by and still, I was wondering what this whole circus was all about. The session was getting worse, boring and irrelevant every second. So I asked Margo Glantz which young Mexican authors she considered should be translated. The answer? ” There are so many, I cannot name one right now”. Thanks, that’s really useful. I gave up. (Strike 3, batter is out)

At the end of the day, I left the event without the book (only 7 copies for sale) and still not knowing about the other 48 authors worth reading. I guess that as a marketing strategy could work really well because the only way to find out is by buying the book! Clever! But I couldn’t feel sorry for Dr. Concepcion Zayas who I’m sure did this book with lots of care and did not get the credit and recognition that she deserved in an event that proved rather unfortunate and even more, upsetting.

But with all this taken into account, I’ll buy México sabe México and will let you know what it’s all about!

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