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Hong Kong Book Fair: What Do You Say to a World Famous Author?

Hong Kong: David Tang Upstages Celebrity Authors

Conventions and Exhibitions

Sir David Tang is in rare form as he moderates a lively and provocative discussion on 'Why Writers Write' at the Hong Kong Book Fair. This piece was originally published on 20 July 2010.

David-Tang-by-George-Lee
Sir David Tang. Photo Credit: George Ledd.

Hong Kong Book Fair

2010 2012 2013 2014

 Man About Town Sir David Tang, founder of Shanghai Tang and the China Club, was in rare form at the Open Public Forum on “How and What and Why Do Writers Write?” in Hong Kong Friday evening.

As moderator, Sir David kept the Standing Room Only crowd of 1,000 in Theatre One of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in stitches.

I can only assume that the overflow crowd, which was watching a simulcast of the event in Theatre Two, found him equally entertaining.

Sir David also kept the three celebrated British authors – Stephen Fry, Frederick Forsyth, and Andrew Roberts – on their toes, restricting each to a five minute introduction of himself.

After the forum had been thrown open to questions from the Peanut Gallery, he ruthlessly cut anyone short that started to ramble.

Sir David seemed to have particular difficulty identifying the gender of those asking questions. He repeatedly asked if the person he had pointed to was male or female.

It is anyone's guess why, indeed, it mattered so much to him. It never seemed relevant to the proceedings . . . But it always got laughs . . . Enough said . . .

Bad Hair Day

Men with short haircuts were uniformly identified as “bald”. One man sporting a crew cut, Sir David suggested, was in need of Hair Extensions.

I cannot help but wonder how he would have reacted if someone with a haircut similar to his own had raised his hand.

I am sure that he would have suggested that he get a well needed haircut – and, if he had noticed that bulging waistline, he might also have suggested that he hire a personal trainer! Sir David never fails to entertain, and Friday night was no exception.

Sir David's acerbic commentary did more than delight the audience. One politically incorrect comment practically sent Fry to the floor, laughing hysterically. So why doesn't Sir David host a late night talk show? I am convinced it would be a hit!

Those That Can, Do . . .

If Sir David found the spelling errors of some of the questions submitted in writing a bit annoying (one young member of the audience wanted to know how he could become a better “writter”, and Sir David suggested that he start by learning how to spell), the distinguished authors were more forgiving.

Shakespeare, Forsyth pointed out, spelled his own name many different ways. Added Fry: there was nothing intrinsically sacred about the way words were spelt. Spelling was nothing more than a convention created by printers for the sake of consistency.

And here is the good news. None of the three illustrious authors thought that Social Media was the end of literacy as we know it.

“Even emails and texting are literary forms,” said Fry. “The moment we write, we become more literate!” Or something like that . . .

Added Roberts: “Charles Dickens was writing the pre-modern equivalent of a blog.”

So Why Do Writers Write?

When push comes to shove, this is what everyone in the audience wanted to know: why, in fact, do writers really write?

Fry said he wrote “because I have to”. Roberts said it was a great way "to fight boredom”. Forsyth made no bones about it. “I'm a pure mercenary!” he said (more than once). “I write for the royalty paychecks.” Copyright: Michael Taylor

Hong Kong Book Fair

2010 2012 2013 2014

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Your Response Wanted!

Have you ever seen Sir David Tang in action? If youcould ask him a question at a function like this, what would it be?

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