Friday, May 27, 2011

Figuring Out the Buzz at Book Expo, and Why I Pooh-pooh Waiting in Line to Meet Authors, and Yet Melt Like Butter When I Talk to Them.

The world of the book expo is a like interacting with Batman's arch-villain Two Face. Sometimes we're excited about the books, and those of us with pretty decent sales are pretty enthusiastic.  But after another coin flip, there's a lot of worry about the fate of our business.  Publishers wonder why we're not doing more with ebooks, or why we don't have more inventory despite tightened credit, or maybe talk wanders to Amazon's expanded publishing program.  A lot of folks look to the dramatic disappearance of the record store and tie that to the doldrums that the music business is in.  Despite the inordinate ways to discover music online, one fabulous way to discover music is now very, very difficult to expierience--browsing a store.  We are lucky to have Exclusive Company not to far from our store and Rush-Mor in Bay View.

So it's hard not to hit emotional highs and lows during the show. As long as I focus on the books, it's pretty good. It wasn't news that both Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Ernest Cline's Ready Player One were exciting reads waiting to be discovered by our customers.  Both Next Chapter and Boswell have already had strong reads on both novels. Two authors with upcoming events at Boswell have had a lot of great reads from booksellers, Ann Patchett with State of Wonder (event is June 22nd) and Alice LaPlante with Turn of Mind (event is July 13). 

Folks who heard us yap on about Mudbound for what seemed like years will be glad to know that Hillary Jordan has a new novel called When She Woke.  And Scribner seems to have jumped Alice Hoffman back to buzz level with her new historical novel coming this fall, The Dovekeepers. And though there didn't seem to be reading copies, a lot of folks were talking about Jeffrey Eugenides and The Marriage Plot.  And yes, he's coming to Boswell on Sunday October 23, 2 pm, but that's worthy of an entire post.

There is a lot of nonfiction with tremendous buzz as well.  One bookseller friend was most looking forward to Joan Didion's Blue Nights, while another raved about Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising.  And for history, there was a lot of talk about Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. And I was quoted as talking up McSweeneys first cookbook, Mission Street Food. Read more in the Publishers Weekly roundup of booksellery enthusiasm.

One thing that has changed is that is much harder to get the hot galleys without waiting on a signing line.  There is an autograph section of the show, and there are also signings in the booths.  The lines snake all over the floor, and because so many of the booths are much smaller than they used to be, signgings clog the traffic of all the booths nearby, making it harder to walk the floor.  Since we have to have a certain amount of meetings, and I also need to pretty much see the whole floor, I worried that waiting in lines would eat up my show time.  Besides that, I get to see so many wonderful authors at Boswell that this seemed an odd use of my time. 

Perfect example.  I saw Dava Sobel signing her long-awaited new book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. How cool!  So I think about getting in the line, but my eye cannot see to the back.  Then I remember, hey, she's coming to Milwaukee on Wednesday, October 19 (I'm not sure what we're doing with her, but it's going to be very special, so check back for details) when she will really, really really be quite amenable to siging a copy of her book for me.

That said, I am as star-struck as the next guy.  So when I was talking to my pal Patrick Ryan at Granta, (his most recent novel its the kids book Gemini Bites, about which I am quite excited after talking to folks at the Grove Atlantic/Granta gathering), a very nice woman came up to us and joined the conversation.  A little chat and then introduction from Patrick: "This is Francine Prose." Instead of saying, "Hey, I have a pile of novels at home waiting for your signature", we had a very nice talk about the new issue of Granta, "The F Word."  Prose was a contributor.  Oh, the F word is feminism.  We could have talked about Prose's current novel, My New American Life, her new novel about an Albanian immigrant who escapes a brutal dictatorship only to be swept into some messy high jinx in New Jersey, but it's still on my dining room table, waiting to be read. 

And from there, I was swept to Julie Otsuka, whose novel When the Emporor was Divine has become a modern classic about the Japanese internment.  Her new novel, The Buddha in the Attic, follows some Japanese women who become mail order brides.  Not yet read, but now on the top of my list, after spending some time with the entrancing* Otsuka.

But it gets better.  So tune in tomorrow when Amie and I accidentally meet a huge literary star while browsing new paperbacks and stealing ideas for greeting cards.

*Yes, I am now using Arthur Plotnik's Better Than Great: A Plentitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives for every blog post.  Want to spice up your language life?  Come to our transforming talk on Tuesday, June 7, at 7 pm.

1 comment:

mikemik said...

Don't forget the most excellent Bullseye Records, even closer to Boswell!