Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book Expo America 2017

Part of my book haul (I had Sinclair's
book, so now I have an extra copy)
In 2013 I wrote about my first visit to Book Expo America (BEA), which I'd heard about but never attended. Or had the opportunity to attend, as I usually was in Chicago and Evanston in the spring while BEA was running in New York City. (Ironically BEA initially began in Chicago, though before my time there.) I returned the following year, and then BEA returned to Chicago (and my knees began acting up), so I ended up taking a few years' hiatus from this massive publishing fair. Oddly enough, I did not go either year that Counternarratives appeared, either in hardcover (2015) or paperback (2016) version, though I believe I made up for it by attending a wide array of other book events, from AWP to the Brooklyn Book Fair. In any case, I also gave myself a short reprieve on gorging on free books, which is one of the great benefits of BEA, and a chief reason that, as I witnessed during my prior visits, so many attendees arrive and depart with suitcases, roller bags, and other large mobile containers to haul as many books back home--for their own libraries, public and private ones--as possible.

This year I decided to drop by the Javits Center on the festival's final day primarily to see several events my friend David Barclay Moore was scheduled to participate in. David's debut book, The Stars Beneath Our Feet, is a Middle Grade novel set to appear this September from Random House, and as part of the book launch he was on several panels, including one for "Buzz Authors" (writers singled out as likely to create a buzz among readers this year), and  also participated in a single author book signing in Random House's ample, skillfully arranged publisher's area. (Congratulations again, Dave!) I did get to see David speak about his book with other Middle Grade authors, learning something about the genre in the process, and it was also fun to watch him receive VIP treatment with his book signing, which required a ticket to get in line. When I got to his book signing table, I related the following conversation to him:

Woman #1 (in line across from mine, to her friend, Woman #2): Who are you going to see?
Woman #2 (in line in front of me): David Barclay Moore.
Woman #1: What did he write?
Woman #2: The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Who are you going to see?
Woman #1: Lawrence O'Donnell. The TV show host, on MSNBC.
Woman #2: Oh, OK. Tell him I said hello!

Between David's panel and book-signing, and again towards the end of the afternoon, I wandered around the floor, taking in the various booths and designated sections. I did get to see a bit of Lawrence O'Donnell's conversation with Ed Asner, but unlike at the two previous BEAs, where I happened upon Congressman John Lewis, Tracy Letts, Dick Cavett, and others, they were among the very few already famous people I encountered, and I did not step over the cordon to introduce myself to either one. This year the people at the elite university press booths were indifferent at best, or outright ignored me, but since it was the last day of BEA--with Book Con, a book fan-focused gathering at which books are not free--I followed etiquette by asking whether I could take books, and, receiving neither positive nor negative response, I helped myself to a few. Quite a few clusters of people--agents, booksellers, people selling various services (audio rights, etc.)--were huddled at tables all over the place, so the book business writers and certainly most readers rarely see or think about was clearly on display.

At other presses, particularly the smaller university presses, the non-US ones, and the indies, as well as publishers of graphic texts, comics, children's books, etc., the representatives were very friendly, and I ended up collecting roughly a sizable box's worth, which I hauled around at first in my arms until I commandeered one of the rare book bags I could find--most had already been snapped up, I think, over the previous two days and Friday morning--and then mailed straight to my Rutgers office. I won't detail all the books I picked up, but I will mention one book I did grab, after of course asking and not receiving a "No, don't take it": Chris Kraus's new biography of Kathy Acker, simply titled After Kathy Acker. I had to get this book because I was an enthusiastic reader of Acker's work in my youth, and having read and nearly taught Kraus's I Love Dick, and then having watched Jill Soloway's quirky but addictive TV version, I am now on a sort of Kraus kick, if you can call it that. (I taught Kraus's 2013 novel/memoir Aliens and Anorexia as part of a graduate workshop in the spring of 2016. Some of the students loved it, a few absolutely hated it, but it provoked passionate responses in both cases.)

In general I was looking for another literary diamond, one of those texts I'd happened upon before at BEA, like Craig Steven Wilder's Ebony and Ivy, which rocked my world when I brought it home and read it, and which has gone on to become one of the signal texts of the last few years. I did pick up some gems, including Jordan Abel's Injun (Talonbooks) and Hoa Nguyen's Violet Energy Ingots (Wave Books), both of which made the Canadian shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and hope to get to some of them before the summer slides into fall. Perhaps because I went on Friday as opposed to the first or second day, and perhaps because it was the afternoon rather than the morning, the fair felt a bit subdued. Certainly some of the booths, like W. W. Norton's, where New Directions' books would usually be, featured shelves stripped bare--by readers, I think--and though I did pass lines for book signings, they were not anything like I remembered in the past. The FedEx office where I mailed my books was packed, though, and as one of the photos below shows, those suitcases were brimming too. Perhaps next year I'll aim to catch more of the readings and events, and maybe I'll bring a suitcase or roller bag. Or maybe not.

David Barclay Moore and his fellow Middle Grade
Buzz Authors: Kamilla Benko, The Unicorn Quest: The Whisper in the Stone;
Molly Ostertag, The Witch Boy; Eucabeth Odhiambo, Auma's Long Run; and
Jake Burt, Greetings From Witness Protection!
Dave, Kamilla and Molly
Filmmaker Ndlela Nkobi, another friend,
recording the panel for posterity
David and fellow Middle Grade authors
One of the displays
The Confucius Institute's books
London Review of Books (LRB) booth
African American Expressions booth
Columbia University Press, Princeton UP, etc.
New books signing tables
Skincare treatments for book lovers
Barron's financial press books
A kiosk with a book signing behind it
Ed Asner (center) and Lawrence O'Donnell (right)
Printing Korea booth
Counterpoint Press/Catapult/Soft Skull
(with one of my incoming student's first
novel prominently displayed above the
head of the man at right!)
Some great books from Coffee House
Press and others (Dawn Lundy Martin's stunner
Good Stock Strange Blood among them)
From Talonbooks
The line for Dave's book signing
Random House scanning badges
 for the book signing

David signing books for his brother
and niece, in from Atlanta
Directing readers to another book signing
David Funches, of Lion Forge Press
Books by Olive Senior and others
(they would not gift me with these)
Graywolf's offerings (including a new
book by Danez Smith)
Kevin Hart, in cardboard form
Readers, checking out books
A subsequent panel, featuring designer
Zac Posen (at right)
This booth had something to do with
L. Ron Hubbard, I think,
hence the person in the costume
Harvard theorist Danielle
Allen's new nonfiction book
about her cousin, Cuz
Packing those suitcases!
The Javits Center Atrium at the end of the day

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