‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

‘Smoking Martyr’

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I do not personally smoke cigarettes. But let me be clear, I have no problem with people that do smoke as long as it does not get in my face as I hate the smell and would rather not breathe it in.

The following article is interesting though: ‘Smoking Martyr’ Lynn Barber pulls out of festival.

Barber, who writes for the Observer, was due to appear at Richmond’s Book Now festival in November to discuss her memoir, An Education, which tells of the destructive affair she began as a teenager with an older man who picked her up at a bus stop. Her publisher Penguin had supplied a black and white photograph of Barber for inclusion in the festival’s brochure, embroidered scarf around her neck, head thrown back, cigarette in mouth.

But Richmond council deemed that using a picture of an author smoking went against its responsibility to encourage “good health habits”, and asked Barber to provide another. She declined and pulled out of the festival, saying that she had “always wanted to be a Smoking Martyr and obviously this is my opportunity”.

“If a pic of me smoking is such a threat to the good burghers of Richmond, imagine what my presence would do,” she said this morning. Barber, winner of five British Press awards, is also the author of a study of Victorian naturalists, The Heyday of Natural History, along with How to Improve Your Man in Bed and The Single Woman’s Sex Book.

I believe that this festival has every right to deny access or limit the types of people that attend and this includes the type of documentation that they publish (advertising, etc). But even though they have every right to do this it seems a bit much to ask that a photograph of an author be replaced because deemed unworthy of the “good health habits’ that the festival wished to promote.

Lynn-Barber-001This is a book festival not a health fair. I could understand if the primary sponsors of this festival was an organization that was about lung cancer or something of that nature, but this is a festival. Should the festival censor the types of writing that authors and publishers are promoting. God forbid an author have a character that smokes or does drugs or dare I even think it: have sex.

The festival responds as follows:

“A Richmond council spokesman said: “We don’t like to use images of people smoking in our promotional material. As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area, and to be seen to be endorsing smoking, no matter how unintentional, doesn’t complement this.”

What do you think? Is it out a bit much for the festival to demand this photo be changed? I think that she was right to pull out of the festival. I’m sure that if other authors were scrutinized along with their photographs someone, anyone, would find  a reason to object.

I am going to hold a Literary Festival of my own and invite famous authors and publishers but I swear to God if I see one photograph of an author sitting in an armchair it’s off with your damn head.

Your thoughts and commentary?

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Written by thebeliever07

August 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

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