Friday, June 22, 2007

Honeymoon Hiatus, Pocket Reviews, and a Romantic Question

Dear readers, those who are about to marry salute you. Next week is going to be a whirlwind of family barbecues, pedicures, flower arranging, and packing for the honeymoon. The ALP and I are getting married in Brooklyn a week from tomorrow, and the next day we're off for our honeymoon in Puerto Rico. I have a feeling I won't find time to blog during the next few weeks, so I'm declaring this a hiatus.

I've got a backlog of books I've read and have set aside to write about here, and since it looks like I'm not going to have time for detailed reviews any time soon, I'm giving them all to you in a pile with brief commentary. Consider it my rundown of recommended summer reading, with bookseller-style pocket commentary to help you decide what's the book for you. I can't remember what order I read them in, so they're just alphabetical, within their genre categories (just so I don't have to work in "graphic novel" to every description).

FICTION

Divisadero
by Michael Ondaatje
(Knopf, May 2007)
Don't read this for the story, which comes to an abrupt and inconclusive end; read it for the sensual,Hemingway-esque textures of Ondaatje's France and California, and the heartaching love stories he tells so subtly and well. Finishing this book is like awaking from your most detailed and intense dream.

The Great Man
by Kate Christiansen
(Doubleday, August 2007)
I've been a fan of Christiansen since In The Drink showed what it's really like to be a girl in New York City (more Lower East Side than Sex in the City), and she gets better and better. This is a book about the art world rich with colorful characters, sexy even though the protagonists are in their eighties, and ultimately feminist in its depictions of the women behind "the great man." This one do read for the plot; it's got that Dickens or late Auster unlikely happy ending thing. Great, smart fun.

Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing
Edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss
(Interstitial Arts Foundation, April 2007)
I'm so glad I started reading this anthology of "liminal", literary/genre works around the time I served on a panel on comics as interstitial art; for one thing, the panel was another project of the IAF, which is a great force for bringing literary attention to writers whose work might otherwise disappear, incorrectly, into the genre ghetto. As with all anthologies, it was a bit hit and miss for me, but there are some stunners: I loved Michael J. DeLuca's "The Utter Proximity of God" about a miracle-haunted Italian town; Mikal Trimm's "Climbing Redemption Mountain," about an odd tradition for disposing of the dead that allows a son to transcend his father's sins; and Christopher Barzak's "What We Know About the Lost Families of ____ House," told in first-person plural about the ambiguous history of a small town's haunted house. If you're a fan of Kelly Link and all that smart, spooky, magical stuff, you're sure to find some new loves in this one.

The Uncertain Hour
by Jesse Browner
(Bloomsbury, June 2007)
I have to admit that it's rare that hosting an author's reading compels me to read their book, but that's what happened with this one. Jesse Browner read a description of the Roman feast at the center of this book, and I was hooked. And then I talked about it incessantly while reading it, always the sign of a book that's gotten to me. Based on a character mentioned briefly in Roman histories, it's the story of Titus Petronius, Nero's Arbiter of Elegance, who responds to his death sentence from the mercurial emperor in the proper Roman way, by committing suicide. First, though, he throws a dinner party to end all dinner parties, and the intense pathos of enjoying a party when you must die in the morning is an irresistible and thought-provoking conceit. Titus' flashbacks on his intense relationship with the cool yet sensual Melissa add a sense of the man's past and inner life. And Browner is also a food writer, so the descriptions of Roman delicacies (dormouse poppers or sow's vulva, anyone?) are delectable. Food and sex and death -- perfect for the heat of summer.

The Weight of Numbers
by Simon Ings
(Atlantic, February 2007)
This was my one disappointment of recent reads. The description made this sound like a darker Cloud Atlas, with characters intersecting through world politics and science and warfare, but I found the intersections ultimately coincidental and unsatisfying, and Ings' cynical take on world affairs wasn't as compelling as David Mitchell's compassionate humanism. I may have been put off first, though, by the intense and graphic violence of the narrative -- much of it takes place in WWII Europe and war-torn contemporary Africa, and Ings is not concerned for the squeamish. This might work for some, but I would have preferred less gore and more numbers.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Arrival
by Shaun Tan
(Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2007)
Oh, you're going to want this one. A beautiful, surreal, completely wordless story of a father's flight from a city under attack to the land of opportunity, this is the quintessential American immigrant's tale made new and strange. Tan's sepia-toned, atmospheric artwork is reminiscent of Chris van Allsburg (The Mysteries of Harris Burdick), and his odd and original animals, food, architecture and perils reveal a hugely fertile imagination, and make the experience of starting life in a new place hit home with new impact. I'll add my voice to the praise of Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Jeff Smith (Bone) and Craig Thompson (Blankets) and trumpet this new work as an important crossover book (children's and adults, graphic novels and literature), as well as the emergence of a great new talent.

The Black Diamond Detective Agency
by Eddie Campbell; based on a screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell
(First Second Books, May 2007)
Eddie Campbell is the man behind the already cult classic experimental graphic novel The Fate of the Artist (which I admit I only paged through), and he brings a fragmented, bloody sensibility to the Western comics genre in this new one from First Second. The story begins with a horrific train bombing with a single suspect, but complicates in all directions from there. First Second's packaging is brilliant, evoking dime novels or wanted posters, and Campbell certainly does justice to the original screenplay. I admit I couldn't keep track of all the characters and was a bit lost by the end, but it's worth reading as a fresh, nuanced take on the genre.

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train
by Kazu Kibuishi
(Viper Comics, March 2005)
This is one I picked up at BEA in my quest for new comics publishers, and Viper has proved a rewarding discovery. Daisy is a retired train robber in a steam-punk sci-fi Old West populated by both humans and robots, and finds herself torn between the gentle suasion of her former partner (and lover) Tom, now the sheriff, and the offer of "one last job." It's a classic setup, made new by the tough female character and the odd setting, and it makes for some very good storytelling. The artwork is manga-influenced and suggests a more childish story, but the narrative is in fact very grown up. I hope to read more from Kibuishi -- if Westerns are the new zombie comics (i.e. rising to prominence in the medium), he'll be one to watch.

The Professor's Daughter
by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert
(First Second Books, March 2007)
Guibert and Sfar work together often and switch off writing and drawing duties; I like it best when Sfar is writing and Guibert drawing, as in this book. It's kind of a romantic comedy, set in Victorian England, with the eponymous professor's daughter being wooed by a thousand-year-old mummy exhumed by her father, but it gets serious quick and becomes a meditation on the conflicts of freedom and family. And Queen Victoria gets dumped in the Thames, a scene not many books can offer. My favorite of the current crop of First Second offerings, with moments of suspense, humor, and tenderness.

* * *

And now the question to the readership, which I've been pondering for months: what does one take to read on the honeymoon?? Anything depressing, violent or dark is obviously out. Anything requiring heavy mental lifting I suspect will get left in the suitcase. But I'm not much of a reader of the truly fluffy, either. I've had it suggested that something funny is the way to go, and I've got a used copy of a Jeeves & Wooster novel standing by. But I'd also love to read something contemporary during the long, lazy week. The ALP and I plan to do a serious amount of relaxing, as we both seriously need it, and we tend to like to read as we relax. So any suggestions you can offer during the next week will be much appreciated and taken into account in the packing. Paperback only, please -- we're packing light.

Happy reading -- see you after the honeymoon!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Chronicle: Out of the Book Report

John Freeman asked me to write up my impressions of the Friday night Out of the Book event; you can see an abbreviated version on the NBCC blog Critical Mass.

Friday night, June 15, McNally Robinson hosted one of many incarnations of Out of the Book. You can check out the project website for details about the other events that took place all around the country, and the project's mission and future; this is just one event coordinator's take on how our evening came together.

Ever since I realized that being a bookseller was my calling, my passion has been the various ways of creating space – for readers to discover books, for authors to present their work, and for literary conversations to take place. When Dave Weich of Powell's first sketched out for me the idea of the Out of the Book project when we were both in Portland for the ABA Winter Institute, I was on board even before I entirely understood what he was talking about. It seemed obvious to me that this project – a film about (not adapted from) a book and an author, with the potential for a larger event surrounding it, was going to be a new way of creating the space for discovery and conversation, and I wanted in on it.

When the details did fall into place, I realized that this was going to be a lot more work than the events I normally run in the store. We needed a unique venue to show the film. We needed interesting voices to talk about the book. We needed extra publicity. We needed some elements of drama to make the event special. As I've said before, the genius of the Out of the Book project is that it allows bookstores all over the country (not just in New York, L.A. or other major cities) to create an exciting and wonderful event. But seeing as how we are in New York City, it seemed our event ought to be extra special. Luckily, the elements needed were all around me, and I had a tremendous amount of help in bringing it all together.

We found two actors – one of whom works in the receiving room at the bookstore, and another who is the sibling of an employee – who were willing to create a dramatic reading or scene from the book. I first suggested to them that they use the last chapter, which consists largely of dialogue between the just-married, sexually stymied main characters. But they read the book and found a better way in: they would use the first chapter of the book, a description of the characters' state of mind as they begin their honeymoon, and speak the lines from the book as they acted out the scene. Though I was skeptical at first of whether this tack would work, it soon became clear that it was a perfect way to highlight McEwan's triumph in this novel: the limning of the disconnect between the dialogue and what is happening beneath the surface. His deft characterizations make clear to the reader, though not to the couple, exactly why their efforts at connection and communication fail, and that dramatic irony was exactly what the actors were working to capture.

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to pin down a theater – it was April by the time I started looking, and since our events calendar in the bookstore was booked through July I could hardly expect an independent theater to have room in its schedule – Dave Weich hooked me up with a theater promoter who connected me with Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village. This had been my first choice, and I was delighted that we could find a way to work with them. Graciously fitting us between their regular lineup, they tolerated and accommodated this unusual film event with only a mild degree of bewilderment about our insistence that people were going to pay money for tickets to a book event. (There were definitely moments when I shared their uncertainty, though the final count from Friday was a welcome vindication.)

Finally, the element we were most uniquely suited to host: a panel discussion. Authors, critics, experts, and other literary types are easy to find in New York; we just had to find those who were most suited to talk about this book, and who were available on relatively short notice. We were especially lucky that John Freeman agreed to moderate the panel right off the bat; as someone who has interviewed McEwan, who appeared in the film, and who knows scores of writers and publishing types, John was central to making the event a success. After some disappointments – Peter Carey was unavailable, Claire Messud and Patrick McGrath were traveling on the event date – we were able to secure the participation of a wonderfully appropriate, balanced, and richly literary set of speakers. Colum McCann, author of Zoli, is a friend of McEwan and appears in the film (as does Freeman); Kathryn Harrison, a past master of the literature of sexual intensity and anguish, added a necessary female voice to the discussion; and Doug Biro, the film's director, came on at the last minute to add his perspective as a creator of the film and a long time reader of McEwan's work.

What pleased me most about the event was how well one part of the evening flowed into another. After the audience filed in (many of them having purchased discounted copies of the book and merchandise provided by Powell's in the lobby), we began with the actors, Darrell and Jessica. Their intense small scene provided an emotional "in" to the novel, and if the "wow" I heard afterward was any indication, many in the audience shared my shaken-up response to their almost painfully intimate rendition of McEwan. Then the film opened, taking the audience through a wide-angle view of the novel, both emotional and intellectual, with many of the places named in the book beautifully filmed, and McEwan himself commenting on everything from development of the story to his thoughts on human nature and climate change. The humorous filmic epilogue, about the kerfuffle over McEwan's "theft" of pebbles from Chesil Beach and the film crew's heroic efforts to return them, lightened the mood to a more conversational one. Then the panel discussion – right there at the front of the theater – allowed another step back, to an analysis of book, film, author and project that were like witnessing a great bar conversation between extremely literate friends. John Freeman (for whom this was, I think, the third panel discussion in a week) expertly drew out the panelists' insights and kept the conversation compelling for a solid hour. (The sound recording of the discussion should be available on the Powell's website within the next couple of weeks.)

Then, just as we couldn't sit still anymore, the event was over, and we retired to a nearby bar for the afterparty. There, just as I had hoped, the conversation continued. All over the room book people were processing the experience they'd just had and the ideas it sparked on any number of topics. We had successfully created a new space that didn't exist before that night. My hope is that as the Out of the Book project continues, we will be able to do so again and again, and grow that space to the benefit of America's literary culture.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday - maybe?

Stay tuned for a posting later today, dear readers -- working on it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chronicle: Out of the Book conversations

I usually try to stay away from straight-up promotion of anything going on at the bookstore in this blog, but it would be disingenuous not to talk about the event that's taking up all my time and thought (other than the wedding, of course): tonight's Out of the Book event.

As you've probably heard all about, Portland indie bookstore powerhouse Powell's has produced the first in what they hope will be a series of short films about books and authors as part of a project called Out of the Book; sort of a filmic version of the author tour. The first features Ian McEwan's new novel On Chesil Beach. The film is distributed through independent bookstores all over the country; over fifty of them will be showing the film this week, either in their store or in cooperating venues. And each will create their own unique event around the film, from glamorous parties to writing contests to readings by other local authors and critics. The goal for all is to create conversation around the book, to go even above and beyond a regular author tour and make some literary, cultural things happen in all kinds of unique and local ways.

I feel like there's been more excitement in other parts of the country than in New York about this. And that's part of the point, after all. Though New York has the center of the publishing world and any author doing a U.S. tour is going to read here, Out of the Book means any bookstore that wants to can create a happening as literary and exciting as they wish, anywhere in the country. It's good to see a little blow to the New York-centric attitude.

But because we are here, our OOTB event has the potential to be something extra special. We're kicking off the evening with a performance by two young New York actors, who make the emotional heft of the novel almost painfully transparent. Then comes the film, then the panel discussion. Our panel includes not only the director of the film, Doug Biro, but two people interviewed in the film: NBCC president John Freeman, who will moderate, and novelist Colum McCann. They'll be joined by perenially fascinating novelist and memoirist Kathryn Harrison, and excluding the introduction by lil' old me (who also gets her ten seconds of screen time in the film), it's quite the star-studded evening.

And the part that most delights me is that the owners of the Pioneer Theater (a great East Village indie theater that will host the screening) have arranged for us to have an after party across the street at Mo Pitkins House of Satisfaction, a bar that often hosts literary events. The panelists and audience members will have a chance to mingle, drink, and continue that conversation about the book, the author, the film, and the project itself. It's the way it oughta be, I think.

So here's the shameless plug part: there are still a few tickets available. If you call McNally Robinson today, you might be able to get one set aside and have yourself a one-of-a-kind Friday night. If you can't, you may be able to hear the podcast at Powells.com later on. I'll hope to see you there...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Punch-Drunk Wednesday

No time to say goodbye, hello -- just a couple quick links on another busy day.

* Heard about McSweeney's big sale? In a typically ingenious plan to earn back some of the money they lost in the chaos of the PGW distributor switchover (which in quick and dirty terms, hurt little publishers who were owned money for books they'd shipped to the distributor, as they're now being paid cents on the dollar for those same books by PGW's successor(s)), the clever folks at McSweeney's are auctioning off some one-of-a-kind items and selling lots of their stock at clearout prices. My favorite item (aside from the cut-price subscriptions to the Believer): the T-shirt that says "Impossible you say? Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus." True!

* New clever blog idea of the day: The Book Inscriptions Project. Like Found Magazine for the odd and poignant things people write in gift books. Check it out, scan yours and send it in.

* The story on WNYC this morning is that happy economic times are here again, and the book industry seems to carry that out. The Book Industry Study Group report at BEA reports overall book sales up. That doesn't mean everybody's buying 'em from indie bookstores, but still, all boats rise and all that. Take that, naysayers.

* Other cool blog idea of the day: the ALP has a new project which expresses his loving obsession with slang dictionaries. Greetings, Gate, Let's Dissipate is his occasional blog on "slang, jargon, and great words from a complete and utter non-specialist. Don't vip another vop, daddy-o, just dig hard."

* Bookseller Chick, in her new gig as Bookie Chick (she's working at an OTB place while prepping for publishing school -- hooray and congrats!), has time to link to lots of great new sites, like this one which has discovered the new up-and-coming subgenre of horror: kitty vampires. This one gave me a good and much-needed laugh yesterday -- thanks!

Off to run errands. Reading anything good lately?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Link-Mad Monday: BEA 2007 and On!

Sorry about the lack of post on Friday -- the day got crazy, as is likely to happen more often as the wedding date (June 30!) approaches. I'll give a shot at recapping my BEA, with some extra linkage for fun.

Wednesday
Joined the rest of my fellow booksellers at the Brooklyn Marriott for a celebration of Brooklyn. Saw my old boss and mentor Toby of Three Lives and other familiar faces. And David McCullough's opening address -- man can that guy write. The author of 1776 and The Great Bridge expounded upon his own writing career, the Battle of Brooklyn, and the moment he knew he wanted to write about the Brooklyn Bridge. His previous book about the Johnstown Flood had been about the worst of humanity ("just because people are in positions of responsibility doesn't mean they're acting responsibly" he observed, presciently), and he wanted to write about the opposite, a great effort of idealism and civilization that succeeded. The bridge, he postulates, is such an effort: built despite great odds, a thing of beauty as well as utility. Maybe that's why our wedding invites (from local retailer Lion in the Sun) have an image of the Brooklyn Bridge:
After that I scurried to the walking tour of Fort Greene (the neighborhood adjacent to my own, but one I know little about), led by Adrienne Onofri, author of a new book called Walking Brooklyn (though I failed to pick up one of the free copies! -- can anyone help me out with finding if there are any left??) I found myself in a group with the inimitable Joe Drabyak of Chester County Books & Music (and prez of NAIBA) and his coworker; Julia Cowlishaw of Shaman Drum; and the daughter of ABA CEO Avin Domnitz who's a fellow Park Slope-er (though I've forgotten her name - Sasha, maybe?). Adrienne took us on a fascinating tour highlighting the Revolutionary War-era past of Fort Greene, and showing off the evidence of incredible writers, from Walt Whitman to Richard Wright to Marianne Moore, who lived and made their Mark here. It's always amazing to experience the history found in my own backyard.

Afterward we reconvened at Brooklyn's Borough Hall for the "Taste of Brooklyn" reception: beer from the Brooklyn Brewery and cheesecake from Junior's! (Holy cow, those were big slices of cheesecake -- wish I'd taken a picture.) The incredibly loveable (even if he is supporting the disastrous Atlantic Yards project) Borough President Marty Markowitz gave one of his barn-burner speeches in praise of Brooklyn's literary culture, to cheers from the assembled. I found some more friendly faces from the ABA and bookstores, and had a brief huddle with Lance Fensterman about the evening's Emerging Leaders party at Floyd. Then, in the company of my coworker Katie and partner-in-crime Amanda, I trekked over the few blocks to the party venue, where the awesome girls from Reed Elsevier (which runs BEA) were already setting up.

The party pictures, you've already seen. It was great to meet up with old friends, and meet lots of young booksellers from literally all over the country. The Southwest, the Gulf South, the Northwest, the Northeast -- all were represented, and everyone had their fill of free drinks (on BEA -- thanks SO MUCH again!) and conversation with each other and the great authors who joined us: Matt Sharpe and David Silverman from Soft Skull, Kate Christiansen from Random House, Larry Doyle from HarperCollins, Dan Kennedy from Algonquin, and possibly others I might have been too preoccupied to meet. Bocce was played, liaisons both business and personal were formed, and importantly, surveys were filled out that will help us as the Emerging Leaders Council take the project forward with new goals and projects for the year - for example, making our new ELP website a resource for both national and regional gatherings, networking and events.. Do stay tuned for more on that -- I'm excited about the tools we've gathered to make this a truly valuable and viable project. Amanda and I stayed later than everyone else, which may have had something to do with my exhaustion the rest of the weekend, but man it was a good party. (Sweet Pea, we missed you!)

Thursday
The thing about having BEA in your hometown is that it's not all BEA, all the time -- you have to have your life in between. I got up early to work at the bookstore from 10 to 6 on Thursday, and stayed a bit later to help set up for a party hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada to welcome Canadian booksellers to BEA. Since my boss is Canadian and we have a great cafe, we were a perfect fit, so I helped slice cheese and pour out Manhattans as the booksellers mingled in our cafe. It was kind of fun to be on the other side of a bookseller party and watch the dynamic a bit -- those book people can talk, man.
After that, however, I hightailed it over to the West Village, where the Litblog Co-Op party was slated to start at Kettle of Fish around 8. After a quick hello to Amanda (different Amanda) and Moira at Three Lives, I held down a table at my favorite dive bar for a few minutes before being joined by Levi, Carolyn (who really got the best pictures), Anne, and the other usual suspects from the LBC, as well as hordes of publishing folks. You know it's a good party, as someone has observed, when Morgan Entrekin makes an appearance -- he was wearing a white suit and introduced himself to me graciously, and I felt indeed graced by the legendary publisher of Grove/Atlantic. Here's a picture for proof:
(That's him next to blue-shirted Levi Asher). It was pretty amazing all around to see this cross-section of the book world crammed into the bar where I've spent many an evening after work: I met folks from Europa Editions, Dave Weich from Powell's was there, Christin and Praveen from cool new project LitMinds (where, incidentally, there's an interview with me up this week - more on that later), a contingent from Soft Skull, and even the effusive Edward Champion, whom I'd never met (though I did have a run-in with Bat Segundo at last year's LBC party and am relieved he didn't show). After, again, a bit too late a night (though the party was still raging when I left) I trained back to Brooklyn to prepare for the next day at BEA.

Friday
I didn't make it to the children's book and author breakfast on Friday -- or indeed any of the book and author breakfasts or lunches all weekend -- I'm sorry my wimpiness kept me from Mo Willems and Stephen Colbert, but there's only so much one can do. I did make it to the Javitz in time for the panel "Book Blogs: Is their increasing influence a tastemaker's dilemma?" (whatever that means.) Anne Fernald of Fernham was on the panel (and has thoughtful commentary on her blog), as well as Bud Parr of Metaxu Cafe and several print jounalists and editors. As the New York Times notes (among many other discussable things), the panel was standing room only (I chatted with Chad Post, who was one of the standers), and both panelists and audience were lively and engaged. There seemed to be a strong consensus (with caveats of course) that both blogs and traditional media have valuable, if different things to offer to readers, and that every segment of the book world would do well to understand both in the interest of both growing their business and enriching book culture. My only regret about the panel was that apparently Lady T was there in the room (and both of us asked questions) but I didn't meet her! Sorry about that -- maybe next year??

Then it was time for a whirlwind tour of the show floor, where I picked up scads of interesting info from publishers, point of sale systems, new tech innovators, graphic novelists and others to take back to the bookstore (and it's all still sitting in a pile in my apartment for me to organize and share with my coworkers). I met some more friends, and found myself in a panel with my coworker John, as we listened to an analysis of data from online, chain and independent bookstores resulting from a survey we took part in. It turns out independent bookstores outrank both chains and online retailers in satisfying customers' desires -- are you surprised? There was a lot to learn from the data about securing market share and considering pricing power, but that's for our manager's meeting next week, not for the blog.

And then it was back to the bookstore for a closing shift. I was already getting a big cranky by Friday night, so my apologies if you visited the store (or had to work with me) -- I blame overstimulation.

Saturday
At the urging of the ALP, I slept in a bit on Saturday, and returned to the Javitz just in time foor another hour or two of show floor before my own panel appearance on "The Graphic Novel Pandemic" (formerly known as "Graphic Novels 360", which I liked better). John Davis of Bookazine able moderated, and I was honored to be in the company of Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, Mark Siegel, publisher of First Second Books (and one of the most eloquent and philosophical speakers on graphic novels I've ever heard), and Stephanie Zvirin, youth books editor and graphic novels reviewer for Booklist. Here's a picture of us (which proves, I think, that I look slightly better sober). Thanks to Carolyn Bennett of Bookstream for handling the camera!


Serving on the panel was kind of like having a great conversation about something we all love in front of an audience, and WITH the audience -- Calvin Reid of Publishers Weekly was there and had as much to say as any of us! It was a gratifying experience, and I hope a profitable one for those who came.

At this point I found the Booksense Lounge, and test-drove the newly redesigned ABA website -- have you seen it? It's pretty awesome looking, and Dan Cullen's blog Omnibus is going to be one to watch. And I discovered a new use for the Lounge -- I crashed out for a half hour nap on one of their comfy couches.

Around 4:00 I met up with Amanda again and fwe ound our way to the advance screening of the Out of the Book film, with producer Dave Weich and author Ian McEwan on hand for commentary. It was great to see the film before the screening hosted by our store (and to find out I don't disgrace myself in the 10 seconds I'm on the screen), and to be able to ask a question or two of McEwan himself. The most important revelation: the film, while evocative and intriguing, manages not to give away the ending.

At the point the show floor had closed, so Amanda and I adjourned to Brooklyn for dinner with the ALP. While he opted for the evening at First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum (always a good time), Amanda and I felt we ought to get some free drinks out of the evening, and found ourselves at local bar Magnetic Field at a party thrown by NAIPR (that's the National Association of Independent Publishers Reps, in case you wondered). The music was odd (a folk adaptation of "The Girl from Ipanema" called "The Girl from Al Quaida"??), but the company was good -- we met Douglas Calhoun (whose mom Wanda Jewell runs SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Association), and his boyfriend, and had some good laughs before my stamina gave out. There was talk of going into Manhattan for the PGW party, but the icky bug that laid me out for the next two days was starting to manifest itself, and I went home to crash instead.


All in all, it was a less intense BEA than last year's for me. I know a big part of it has to do with being a little preoccupied by wedding planning, and having it in my hometown, and the fact that I'm a lot busier in the bookstore than I was this time last year (running a four-events-a-week reading series is a lot more labor and brain time than just working on the floor, I've found). And like last year, I wasn't looking for the hot new galley to read, because those get sent to the store anyway. But I did pick up a lot of information, both about new products and new ideas for running the store, that don't happen anywhere else. I'm grateful for the chance to see old friends and make new ones, and feel my finger on the pulse of the book industry and the literary world for three days a year. And I'm looking forward to next year in L.A. -- I'll have a different last name, I may be closer to opening a bookstore myself, and I won't have any shifts to work.

I'd love to hear about your BEA experiences -- do direct me to other great rundowns and stories you've seen, as my RSS reader can only show me so much!

P.S. I loved doing the LitMinds interview, and I think it's a little funny that the tag line ended up being about my assertion about John Updike's misogyny. The poor guy got name-checked in the NY Times article I linked above too, for his ranting speech against digitizing books, as it becomes clear from BEA that the book world is moving on in spite of him. There is more to the interview, though -- let me know what you think in comments or on LitMinds, which is becoming a great new forum for literary conversations.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Book Nerd BEA in pictures

You'll get the narrative rundown later, along with all the valuable things I learned and people I met, but everyone knows the pictures are the fun part, right?

I feel the story of my BEA will be clear from these photos: i.e., I burned out early. Stressing out over the EL party on Wednesday, the LBC party on Thursday, and my panel on Saturday meant that I was not at my best for the rest of the festivities. But "oh, my foes, and oh my friends," as notorious party girl Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote -- it was worth it.


Here's an overhead shot of the scene at Floyd, the Brooklyn bar chosen to hold a roomful of young booksellers from all over the country for the First Annual EL-BEA.
My coworker Katie chats with EL Council Member Sylla on Floyd's comfy couches.

From left to right, Amanda of Harvard Square, Tom of McNally Robinson AND A Public Space, and Megan of Harvard Square (who has the distinction of being the only OTHER person to have both an EL button and an LBC button to her name...)
Here the ABA's own Lisa Winn (our EL Liaison) gets into the bocce game, with Kari Patch of Harvard Square looking on.
Here my co-conspirator bookseller Amanda Lydon, BTW reporter Karen Schechner, Tattered Cover's Neil, and BEA director Lance Fensterman confab on the couches.
Here we have the ever-youthful John Mutter of Shelf Awareness and Susan Weiss of breathe books in Baltimore, classing up the party.

Here we find the inimitable Lance Fensterman in a rare moment of leisure.

And my favorite -- Book Nerd and Mr. BEA, totally geekin' out at the greatness of it all.
Here we graciously draw the curtain over EL-BEA (though I may have other, more incriminating photos if anyone's interested...)

On to Thursday night. Here's the prettiest crowd shot from Kettle of Fish, where members of the Litblog Co-Op and a couple hundred of their closest friends gathered to hobnob with their fellow book folks.

Here's the smoking lounge outside -- there's Megan again, Richard Nash from Soft Skull Press, Jill from Powell's (thanks Dave!), and a flash of red hair that is Carolyn of Pinky's Paperhaus.

I'm out of time and I have to run to work, so I'll have to post the rest tomorrow and Friday. Have fun -- let me know if there are other places I should look for great BEA pictures...

Monday, June 04, 2007

BEA, Blogger Kick My Ass

I didn't make it to the PGW party on Saturday night because I wasn't feeling too hot, and I spent all day Sunday in bed with some kind of mutant sore throat that took over my entire body. I'm still pretty incoherent, stuffy and wobbly today, so I'm going back to bed. But you probably won't know any of this because Blogger has decided I might be spam and won't be able to make up its mind about that for about two days. Whatever. More about BEA when I can.

Update: It's Tuesday, Blogger has forgiven me, and I'm still stupid sick. Stay tuned for BEA reports when I can get it together.