Tomorrow kicks off the biggest book convention in the country, Book Expo, otherwise known as BEA. It’s always fun, full of booksellers, publishers, and authors. I also look forward to it because I get to take the train. A four hour journey, where I can get up whenever I want to stretch my legs, forced to do nothing but read? Paradise! And of course, as I’m heading to a place where galleys will be as bountiful as pollen at the moment, I don’t have to bring tons of books with me. I’m bringing along Idiopathy by Sam Byers and The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova, both debut novels. There will be the usual buzzing about certain books coming this Fall, but I hope to discover some overlooked gems.
Speaking of overlooked gems. I visited San Francisco recently and made my first trip to Oakland. There’s this great bookstore called Walden Pond Books on Grand Avenue. Someone had written a staff recommendation for Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter, part of the NYRB Classics series that I love. Devastating. That’s the word that best describes this novel. It’s the story of Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager, eking by as a pool hustler in Portland, Oregon. He meets Billy Lancing, a young black pool hustler. Levitt bounces around from reform school, to a psychiatric facility, seedy hotels, and prison . Back on the street, he finds himself finding himself a girl, a job, and perhaps a life worth making a go for, before life gets him again. Some of the best writing is of Jack’s re-encountering of Billy in prison. The opening sequence is worth buying the book to read alone. Just don’t plan on doing anything when done for a while. The ending will make shake your head and wonder why a man can’t get any breaks.