I won’t say that getting up on Friday was easy. BEA is all about long days and long nights. You sort of have to get back into that college vibe of staying up late and still getting up for that 9 am class (or in this case getting up at 7 for the 45 journey to the convention center). I arrived at the Javits Center bright and early with my colleagues from the store for meetings with various publishers. These aren’t sales appointments, but more of a chance to talk about our relationships with them, upcoming events and promotions. The day flew by and I had to rush back to Brooklyn to change for my first cocktail party of the evening.
You want to look your best when you meet Philip Roth. That’s right, Philip Roth. I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of about 40 people at a party celebrating his upcoming Fall Book Exit Ghost. We met at Cafe Gray in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. Let me just say that these were some of the best hor’dourves I’ve ever had. Yummy risotto balls, little salad wraps, wow. I had no idea what most of it was and when I asked the servers, they would mumble some reply, but I just ate it anyway. They were all good and plentiful. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. The thing about meeting authors of Roth’s stature for me is not knowing what to say. It’s all sort of a blur. Amanda made him laugh at least:
Bridget, the director of marketing at Houghton Mifflin said as she walked up, “We were just talking about taxidermy.” And Amanda confused as to the subject asks, “Of reviewers?”
Roth smirked. “That would be too good for them.”
She smartly retorts “Maybe roasting then.”
“That would be more appropriate.”
My witty repartee mostly got me a blank stare. I might have mentioned that he’s too prolific and needs to write less so I can catch up or some other nonsense. Then his jacket caught on fire. He was leaning against a ledge against the window overlooking Columbus Circle, which is quite beautiful by the way. The restaurant had placed votive candles on the ledge for ambiance. He must been leaning too too close to one because his jacket soon started smoldering. He ended up with a quarter sized hole! Some lucky bookseller got to pat him on his ass to put out the fire. Fun was had by all.
After having dinner at Landmarc, also in the Time Warner building, I headed over to another annual secret booksellers party at Cowgirl, on Hudson street. Again, lots of booksellers and other folks. Another late night.
Headed back over to the Javits for more meetings with publishers as well as a chance to walk the show floor for a while. Let me just say that the floor can be overwhelming. Tons of people, all walking around, looking at the various publishers booths, not necessarily looking where they are going. Some of the booths are bigger than others. I believe Random House had a square mile (not really). There are first time authors hoping to get their books into the hands of the booksellers. Frankly, you learn to keep your hands to yourselves or else you end up with so many books, many you don’t necessarily want to read. I actually didn’t get that much this year. Probably because I can get all of these things back at work and don’t want to lug them back home on the train. Some booksellers use the chance to get some extra inventory—a controversial topic to say the least.
Saturday evening found me at Buddakan for the Harper Collins cocktail party. This is a restaurant famous for its decor, one of the reasons why I went. The Harper parties also tend to have the most interesting people, more business folks than booksellers. Also lots of authors—I spotted Deepak Chopra amongst others, while people watching with Dave Weich from Powell’s. We enjoyed the various hor’dourves, except they gave them to you in little spoons and bowls, but didn’t stick around to take them back, so your left trying to hold your drink and various implements. It was messy to say the least. Dave and I headed uptown to the Museum of the City of New York for the New York Review of Books party, a somewhat more sedate affair, but just as fun. We met up with Jill and Darrin also from Powells and headed out after a while to the Ultimate Dance Party. Now I have to mention that PGW usually has one of the biggest and most famous parties each year. They usually rent out some large venue and book a pretty well-know band. One year it was Brazilian Girls and another year the Blues Explosion. Last year, several other publishers banded together to do something similar, calling it the Ultimate Dance Party. Imagine 100 booksellers of various ages all spazzing out on the dance floor and you get the picture. It’s still a good time.
The last day of the trade show! A lot of the booksellers don’t attend on Sundays, but we had some more appointments and what not. Sunday is the hardest day. The lack of sleep is staring to take its toll, not to mention the conditions of the Javits Center. It went from tropical humidity on Thursday to Arctic on Sunday. I was glad when we got back into the sun around two o’clock. I used the free afternoon to wander around Soho, visiting McNally Robinson and other stores in the area. I also had dinner with a small group of booksellers at Bar Tabac in Brooklyn. When we left the restaurant, the skies were pouring water down like it was going out of style. We ran a block to a nearby bar with couches before heading back to the hotel.
My store is part of a small consortium of booksellers that meets several times a year, one of the days being the Monday after BEA. We split up into groups and talk about various topics having to do with bookselling. It’s usually one of the most informative days for us, a chance to talk in a smaller setting about real issues. That runs into the afternoon and now I’m on an Acela train speeding back to Boston while writing this. I can’t seem to get any wi-fi, so you might not get to read this until tomorrow, where I’ll be back at my desk trying to catch up on the 200 emails and voicemails.