Thursday, June 15, 2017

BEyAy 2017: The Prevalence of Surprise Booze

It has been about two weeks since Book Expo America, the largest book fair in the US, and, as normally happens to me after Book Expo, I've been in decompression mode. I don't mean to imply that BEA is in any way a bad kind of stress; I have nothing but joy walking the exhibits floor and seeing familiar faces everywhere. Just that the energy of the show is generally frantic and the residue of knowledge that THERE IS SO MUCH TO F*$&*^# READ needs some time (generally about a two weeks) to harden and form a viable mandate to read and talk about the stuff I learned. Coincidentally (or, you know, not), BEA generally kicks off conference season for me, a kind of New Year's Eve bash that commemorates my resolutions to exercise... some measure of control in the amount of galleys I collect while simultaneously reinforcing my drive to spend my life reading. It's a slippery slope.

Aaaaanyway, I'd qualify this expo as a success, despite it being noticeably smaller (due to the bump up in prices to attend?) I had a mixture of working and socializing and, as in years past, the highlights involved talking and learning about new books. A lot happens during BEA and I'm fortunate enough to be able to attend thanks to my job(s).

Some highlights:

  • The librarian's dinner at the Yale Club. I got to hear John Hodgman host a panel of stellar authors including Jesmyn Ward, Sujata Massey, Annalee Newitz, Ben Blum, and Jamie Ford, whose previous book, Songs of Willow Frost I was coincidentally leading a book discussion group of the following week. I wasn't able to speak to him amidst the chaos of getting out of the Yale Club but it was great to hear him talk about his upcoming book. 
  • I attended the Adult Book and Author breakfast originally to hear Stephen King speak about his forthcoming book, but thanks to massive train delays, I walked into the stadium at the exact moment that Stephen King said "...and thank you" which was followed by applause. So I guess, technically I saw Stephen King...'s back as he turned around to walk offstage. Sigh. However, the other speakers were well worth the early morning commute. I was particularly struck by Pete Souza, President Obama's photographer and his discussion of his forthcoming book. Here's a great article from The Atlantic with a group of really great highlights. His book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait is due out in November. Also, astronaut Scott Kelly discussed his forthcoming book (October) called Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery and it was fascinating because he, you know. SPENT AN ENTIRE YEAR IN SPACE.
  • About a week before Book Expo began, everyone who registered got an email announcing Hillary Clinton would be giving a talk. I was beyond excited to hear her speak because it isn't every day you get to see someone like Clinton in the flesh and hear her talk after the colossal nightmare that was the most recent election. She said many things that struck me, not the least of which is that she felt catharsis through writing her forthcoming memoir. I feel that, girl. Upon exiting the talk, we were all gifted with a personal copy of her autograph which is mighty cool.
  • Before going in to see Clinton, my friends and I wandered around aimlessly for a bit, away from the crazy energy of the exhibit floor. During our meandering we stumbled upon a book promotion event that was giving out free bourbon. One of the great things about BEA is the often surprise prevalence of booze. And by "surprise" I mean the common, unspoken knowledge that the publishing industry and librarians and booksellers (at least when I was a bookseller in Greenwich Village in the 90s) like to be in their cups. This was an understated and out of the way event and was exactly what we were in search of at that moment, but didn't know it. So I got a Knob Creek with ice (because my friend Nancy told me to...I know zero about bourbon.) Luckily, the author was in attendance and knows hella about bourbon but sadly no galley was available. Straight Bourbon by Carol Peachee is due out from Indiana University Press in September. 
  • I didn't know it at the time, but, after several years of attending BEA and entering various raffles for various giveaways, I finally won! I won the entire How to Train Your Dragon series from Little, Brown! It arrived on my doorstep a few days after expo ended and I was thrilled!

Speaking of thrilled, I think now is the time to share my absolute favorite moment....

That would be meeting and getting photo evidence of having met, the inimitable Matthew Weiner. The creator and writer of Mad Men, the gold standard of television storytelling was promoting his novel, Heather, the Totality (which I've read...but won't publish a review of until it comes out in November) and I had not known he would be there until that very morning while perusing the gigantic program Publishers Weekly gives out at every conference. I awoke, innocent of the prospect of speaking to and standing next to a writer who is deeply influential to me and someone I admire. Which proves the old adage correct: When one misses Stephen King talk, one might meet a literary hero later. I think that's how it goes.

I'm positive much more happened and I intend on digging in to my comparatively modest haul, pictured below very soon, including, but not limited to a whole stack from Graywolf Press, the new Jennifer Egan, (due out in October), and utilizing the everlasting mascots of BEA (and librarians everywhere): tote bags.

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