Sorry for my lapses in posts. I got back very late Monday night from BEA, which was in NYC. I am so tired and have so much work with which to catch up. To give you an idea of what BEA is like, read this Observer article. Yes, it is sarcastic and pessimistic, but most of it is true.
I arrived by train on Thursday and after some crappiness at my hotel headed over to the show. Unfortunately, I some of the more fun panels, including the blogging one. I had to go shopping, you see, to find something to wear to the big LBC party at the Slipper Room. There (suitably dressed) I finally met some of my fellow bloggers: Ed, Mark, Laila, Michael, Bud, Ron, and Sarah. We had a lot of fun and met many great people, some in publishing, some authors (Martha Cooley and Kelly Link spring to mind), and some readers. The bar cleared at 8:30 or so, and instead of heading to one of the other publishing parties, I headed to the Mermaid Inn on 2nd Ave. to meet my sister and her husband. Great food, great company, plus Keanu Reeves was there.
Friday, we arrive bright and early for the opening of the show floor. Chaos is one word to describe it. People came armed with more than 5 tote bags sometimes, even though every other booth were giving away free bags. By the time I got to the Booksense Luncheon at noon, I had had several unwanted books shoved into my arms, necessitating getting one of these bags. But the attendees filled them much more quickly and made it impossible to navigate the floor in a sane manor. I am pretty sure I bowled over some poor woman from the mid-West as I hurried the ‘Future of the Graphic Novel’ panel in the afternoon. Chip Kidd (who has a wonderful retrospective coming from Rizzoli by the way) moderated, with Adrian Tomine, Frank Miller, Brad Meltzer, Charles Burns, and Harvey Pekar. Interesting discussion, though they focused more on each artist’s individual upcoming works rather than on graphic novels in general, which was what I wanted. They did discuss briefly the growing popularity of comics and the trend of the big publishing houses that are now producing some graphic novels, Pantheon (part of Random House) for instance. There’s been an underground aspect to parts of the graphic novel community for years, and like indie rock music, one wonders if signing with a big house is selling out. I am not siding with one or the other. Just stating the arguments (ineptly). Harvey Pekar, who self-published much of his early work, said, “I don’t know about anybody else, but money means a lot to me.” Basically saying that the “romantic” idea of self-publishing in reality is a pain in the ass. And then the floor was opened to questions, most of which frankly were rather dumb. “How can we get more literary graphic novels?” is sort of a slap in the face to many of the panelists, at least I thought. They responded pretty well (not outright calling her a dumbass). After the panel, I raced over to the signing area and got some autographs.
It had started raining by the time I was leaving and I thought,naively, I will walk up a block or two and grab a cab. I had accepted an invitation to the Bloomsbury Walker dinner, which started at 7, and I didn’t want to be late. I walk in the rain up a few blocks, where I see a man collapse in an epileptic fit cracking open his head on the sidewalk. Luckily, some other BEA goers attended to him. But now how was I going to get a cab (yes, I was being an asshole)? An hour later I made it back to the hotel after waiting in line at Penn station for 45 minutes. I was an hour late to the dinner and missed my chance at mingling with Anthony Bourdain, Patrick McGrath, Ross King, Dava Sobel, and others. I did meet Susannah Clarke and Jim Lynch, who were both charming.
Saturday was more of the same for the show. I did see Sarah on the panel called ‘What We Know About Our Readers: A Mystery and Suspense Media Perspective’. Several other panelists from various Mystery publications spoke quite eloquently about the Mystery audience. Sarah has a better rundown on Publisher’s Lunch (second item). I left a little earlier that evening so I could make it to a bunch of exciting parties (on the way back to the hotel, I saw another person collapse on the sidewalk. This time it was a woman who had stopped breathing. I was hoping it was not an omen of some kind or a portent because I ignored it). First up was the Harper Perennial party at Mario Batali’s Otto. I love Batali and was hoping to meet him. Alas, I didn’t see him, but Harper had an astonishing array of authors present. I managed to make an ass out of myself with Francine Prose, chatted with George Crane (who is one of the more interesting people I met and whose books Bones of the Master and Beyond the House of the Lama I now want to read), and others. I left there and headed to the Cellar Bar in the Bryant Park Hotel to attend the Henry Holt party. It’s a nice bar and they even make their waitresses wear these skimpy S&M outfits. Authors I met there were Thomas Frank and Paul Auster. I also spent some time chatting with Oscar Villalon, Book Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and Michael Newirth, Fiction Editor of Bridge Magazine. I had a great time talking with them both about books and book reviews (the Globe was mentioned). The night was still young, so I walked over to meet a coworker at the Hammerstein Ballroom to the PGW party, which promised to be the young, hip party of the evening. And failed. Everyone I met, except this random woman from Barnes & Noble (eww), were very nice. Ed and I circulated the crowded area chatting with people and I spent more time talking with Oscar, ranting about book reviews (third party=more drinking). The noise eventually got to me, and even other booksellers couldn’t convince me to stay out. I had to get up very early the next day….
7 o’clock to be precise. The big Author Breakfast began at 8. Bob Herbert hosted Umberto Eco, Barbara Ehrenreich, and John Irving. I managed to stay awake. Mostly. The breakfast part was a sham. They gave us a basket of muffins and coffee. But the authors were great. I’ve always been a fan of Bob Herbert. Umberto Eco is very funny, as is Barbara Ehrenreich. And John Irving cracked a few jokes as well. Most of the people I met at the show were pleasant, if not nice. Except for Umberto Eco’s handler. I saw him heading toward a booth and thought to get him sign my copy of his book. I’ve been a fan of his for years. She icily (and bitchily) said no. The rest of the day I spent visiting publishers with regards to work. And I met my sister for dinner again at a great sushi place Blue Ribbon Sushi.
The day after BEA, the IBC, or Independent Booksellers Consortium, meets and discusses, well, books and bookstores. It was enlightening for me, as a first time attendee. Then we made our 5 o’clock train home, where I zoned out and read.
Big name authors aside, I more enjoyed meeting many nice booksellers and university press people. They are in the book business for personal reasons, rather than gain (though gain is nice). It’s pretty hard to talk to the more well-known authors without sounding like a sycophant or asshole. That in a nutshell was my BEA experience. Any questions?