Monday, November 1, 2010

Rep Night #2, Part Two: Revenge of the Reps

Talk about rep night madness! Having four folks present in an evening just fills you with so much information. Everybody's scribbling madly. It's crazy, I tell you.

Of course we can't forget about the food. This time we had an assortment of pizzas from Via Downer, the new restaurant a block from us. As anyone who talks to me regularly knows, I am rather obsessed with the roasted potato with chicken in garlic sauce pizza, but I made sure we had an assortment. Yes, I still eat at Transfer too, but that's really a pizzeria; this is a restaurant with a broad menu.

We filled out the menu with a salad from Beans and Barley, and some cake too, a quarter sheet each of carrot and chocolate peanut butter cakes from their delicious catering menu. If I can walk to Beans for lunch, you can visit Boswell after dinner (that's a plug for folks eating at Beans and Barley to visit us, if you didn't figure it out.)

It seems like all I am reading are books from W. W. Norton of late. I am still in the middle of Nicole Krauss's Great House (which was a lovely event), and as you know from previous posts, have enjoyed Mary Helen Stefaniak's The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia (also a great event). As those were two of Johanna's fiction picks, I need not say more. We have signed copies of both books.

Johanna is a great reader (one of my reps that reads widely, not just her own books) so when she made a big pitch for Townie, Andre Dubus III's memoir coming next February, everybody took notice. In fact, Jason's already read it. I expect we'll get several great reads on it.

Not to belittle there strong fiction and narrative nonfiction list, but history is where Norton is a real powerhouse. John W. Dower's Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq has been getting a lot of attention, and certainly could have been featured on my recent history write up. Pulitzer-winning Dower looks at America's war strategies, using Pearl Harbor and 9-11 as jump-off points. Oh, and the book is a National Book Award finalist.

I usually think of Norton releasing a couple of cookbooks per season, but the list keeps growing, and editor Maria Guarnaschelli has an amazing track record for James Beard nominations and wins.

Perhaps the highest profile work is Amanda Hesser's new edition of The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Putting together this volume involved an open nomination process that then entailed Hesser to cook hundreds of dishes that received multiple votes. Do I remember how many dishes she cooked or how many nominations it took for her to test them? I do not. I should have taken better notes.

Returninng to the Buddy Valastro vibe of the last post (info on our Cake Boss signing here), I was intrigued by Rose Constantino's My Calabria, a wonderful new cooking focusing on Italy's boot region. Constantino runs well-known cooking classes in Northern California, and Hynes description of the book was mouth-watering. Who doesn't love Southern Italian cooking? And what chef isn't interested in taking it to the next level? I have no idea, but I can ask around.

One of the saddest things about giving up buying is that I would probably not get to know the new sales reps as they picked up our territory. As much as you like someone, there's little that bonds you more than a full day of buying. Of course, we're a much smaller store and buying doesn't take as long. I can regale you with tales of pre-computer backlist buying, when it would sometimes take me two days.

That said, who would have guessed that our new HarperCollins kids rep would be my old friend Jenny, the only person in the room (consisting of 40 people, mind you) with whom I had ridden a rollercoaster. I did need to ask everyone to make sure, as the memory isn't what it used to be.

I don't read as many kids books as I want to, but Jenny's the kind of rep that makes you want to read all of them. The picture books included Michael Hague's illustrations for Irving Berlin's White Christmas and Doreen Cronin's Rescue Bunnies. As Jenny noted, rabbits as medical technicians is storytelling gold, and it's surprising that nobody had previously mined this territory. You can only imagine the tribulations that Newbie, the rescue bunny traine, must go through.

Lots of props for Lauren Oliver's second novel, Delirium (the first was Before I Fall), which to my delight, had a new dystopian spin (though to my dismay, it's not coming until next February). Love is forbidden by decree, and at adulthood, everyone gets "The Cure", the surgery the wipes out our desire for desire. So teenage Lena is looking forward to The Cure and living a safe, predictable life know what happens.

So Bright Young Things brings Gossip Girls to the Jazz Age, just like The Luxe novels captured the Gilded Age. When is the Gilded Age? And is there a secret connection between the novel's heroine, Cordelia Grey, and the P. D. James Detective? Probably not, as their last names are spelled differently.

And finally, I would like to call to attention Ben H. Winters' middle-grade novel, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. It's about some students (particularly Bethesda Fielding*) who find out that their teacher was a former rock star, and the school decides to stage a rock show. But Ms. Finkleman has another mystery, and needs Bethesda's help. It's Chasing Vermeer meets School of Rock! Who doesn't like a snappy comparison like that?

So another rep night is done, and for the next two, we're being hosting by Next Chapter. I may not even take notes. Heck, I may not even go. We'll see.

*She may or may not be the niece of Chevy Chase.

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