As if to prove that the sanctimony of the anti-smoking movement knows no bounds whatsoever, the local council in Richmond, England, home of the Book Now festival, has objected to a publicity photograph of Lynn Barber, winner of five British Press awards and author of the memoir An Education, because it showed Barber smoking. Barber, who was scheduled to appear at the festival in November, responded to the request for another photo by withdrawing from the roster of attendees. The stated reason for the Richmond council’s objection? Depicting an author smoking would contravene the city’s responsibility to promote “good health habits.”
“I’ve been told that we can’t use that photo because Lynn is smoking in it “ the situation is a little bit ridiculous, as elsewhere we’ve got Martin Amis pictured with a lighter in his hand,” said Nathan Hamilton, a freelance programmer for the Richmond literary festival who had been putting the brochure together.
Indeed, Amis, who is rarely pictured without a cigarette in his hand, remains on the festival’s bill “ for the moment. Hamilton is quoted as saying that he hopes that other authors won’t walk away from the festival in solidarity with Barber. “I mean, if every writer who smoked and drank pulled out of a literary festival, that would probably rule out most writers; you wouldn’t be left with much of a literary festival,” he said.