Dispatches from the big, big Book Expo

June 7th, 2007 by Rachel

As most sentient (or at least LitBlog-reading) beings seem to know by now, last weekend was258024409_a4ed9d9b36.jpg Book Expo America. It was my first time at the annual publishing industry conference/tradeshow/extravaganza, although I was once sent to a similar event thrown by the American Library Association, which I thoroughly enjoyed. BEA was a bigger and a little slicker. There were fewer fanny packs, but also no private night at Universal Studios, so you could say it was a toss up.

In general, I was struck by two things. One, it was really, really corporate. I guess there’s no reason it shouldn’t be—it’s an industry trade show. But a tiny part of me wanted musty, dusty, charming, mahogany-paneled, latte-sipping, cigar-smoking, let’s-don-our-ascots-and-have-civilized-discourse-on-the-future-of-literature. Two, it was freaking hot in there. Shouldn’t the upside of corporate evil be impeccable heating and cooling systems?

All bitching aside, it was a great mix of big publishers and small and university presses, plus representation from kiddielit legends (There’s a sequel to Stargirl! E.L. Konigsburg is still alive!), comics, plays, art books, cooking, erotica, and a self-published ghetto in the basement.

I met emo-comics mac daddy Adrian Tomine for as long as it took him to write “to Rachel. Adrian Tomine.” It was awesome. Or it looks like his new book Shortcomings will be, anyway. I met Terry Nemeth, publisher of TCG, which (among other things) puts out contemporary plays in sleek book form. I realized for the first time (dense much?) that comics and plays are the same thing—stories told almost entirely in dialogue, where you can see the characters—and it makes sense I like both so much. Hey comics nerds—check out theater! Really!

At the DUMBO party thrown by BOMB and other hip indie Brooklyn literate folks, I met Buzz Poole of Mark Batty Publisher, which I had never heard of. A swing by their Javits booth revealed that this “Pop Culture/Design/Typography” book company tells stories in unusual ways that I’d like to think are oh-so-SMITH. Xiu Xiu: The Polaroid Project chronicles a band’s touring through Polaroid pictures that were then returned to the fans. Illustrations from the Inside: The Beat Within is a collection of pencil drawings by incarcerated youths. And The Serif Fairy is an ingenious and beautiful book that is part fairy tale and part font gallery. That’s less about personal nonfiction storytelling, but maybe if I mention it, they’ll send me a copy?

Other memoirs and personal stories I’m looking forward to include Free For All, Don Borchert’s shocking librarian tell all, MacArthur genius Peter Sis’s graphic memoir about growing up in Cold War Czechoslovakia, CHOICE: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion, and (Not that You Asked), Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions by Steve Almond, with whose Daddy Blog I’ve become obsessed.

I talked book blogs with the guys from The Millions and met the real live Bat Segundo. I discovered a children’s book called Mommy Has Tattoos and a free daily comic (already widely discovered) about life as a librarian. And then I collapsed with a 102 fever, robbing you all of the news from Sunday. Apparently my wonderful book editor and the fabulous Written Nerd fell ill as well. Anyone else have evidence of an insidious BEA bug?

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