Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome to New York! The Upright Piano Player on the Plane, My Korean Deli on the Ground.

Greetings from the Holiday Inn Midtown, where many booksellers are staying during the annual Book Expo America convention.  I am very excited because the internet is free, the bedding is updated, the manager was nice, and there is no hole in the wall (yes, that has happened to me at other New York Hotels).  No, you didn't navigate to Trip Advisor by mistake. (Note: by the end of the show, I heard that many of the rooms were not updated, there were way too many smoking rooms allotted to nonsmokers, and our television, air conditioning, and toilet were sort of broken.  But such promise!
I also want to give a shout out to Frontier Airlines. I was a fiercely loyal Midwest Airlines customer, refusing to swtich to Northwest during the price wars when they'd sometimes be quite a bit cheaper, yes, even when I was paying.  And I've been a bit at sea about the changeover.  But I messed up my flight, and had to get it changed, and Frontier was very easy to deal with. 

Coincidentally I wound up sitting with Dave, the buyer from Next Chapter. He was reading Liesl and Po, the forthcoming novel by Lauren Oliver, while I was finishing up The Upright Piano Player, a first novel from David Abbott that my rep Jason was crazy about.  It's a man forcibly retired from the business he built up, beset by a number of setbacks, some minor and some major--his estranged wife is battling cancer, and he has a stalker, to name two.  It's like reading Anita Brookner, but with plot twists, and I think Ian McEwan is also a good comparison.  "Elegant, rich, and gratifying," says The Indendent, with assorted other UK-style raves thrown in for good measure on the back of my reader's copy. I have to wrap my head around the significance of the title, but all in all, Jason G. (the rep) made a great call and I'm glad I read this. The Upright Piano Player is coming out June 21 (update--moved up to 6/7!), which is certainly close enough for you to put it on hold with us.  And I checked Jason K.'s files, (the Boswell buyer) and this book will be Boswell's Best on arrival. Such a deal at 20% off (effectively 25% if you are a Boswell Benefits member, as the dollars accrue to your $5 coupon).

So I'm in New York, and my Sunday dinner companion has cancelled.  I need something to eat!  I think fondly of My Korean Deli, that delightful memoir that was published in March, but I only got around to reading recently.  Too bad I now know that all those steam tables are institutional food warmed up in the basement.  What no local chefs?  I'm shocked.  In the end, Ben convinced his mother-in-law to forego the steam table in midtown for a convenience store in Boerum Hill.

What convinced me to read this?  Well I was complaining to a New York writer friend that I just wasn't getting into anything I was picking up.  I needed a book that was an instant delight, and she immediately sent me a list.  Thanks, E.L.!  Since I had just read all these highbrow food books like Life, on the Line, and The Sorcerer's Apprentices, this was sort of the anti-foodie foodie book.  Just right!

It's Ben's wife's idea to buy the place. Gab gives up a corporate law job to give back to her mother, one of the many Korean families that came the U.S. in the 1980s to make a new life for their families.  Her father is a fix-it guy, but Kay's experience is in running restaurants and bakeries, though her vision of America is much shaped by gigs in Ohio and Texas; New York is a whole nother kettle of fish.  And Boerum Hill turns out to be not exactly what they expected either. It's gentrifying, but not that quickly*. Change the coffee to something drinkable (and more expensive) or get ride of the "cash in a flash" lottery machine and face the consequences!

And of course Ben keeps his day job at the Paris Review.  Coincidentally I had just had a long conversation with a local writer who had gone through a long and involved process applying for a job there.  He finally made it to the great Plimpton himself, but I don't think that interview went well.  George's loss is Milwaukee's gain. What a lovely book, and just right to put me in the mood for the convention. 

*What they've got turns out to be not quite a Korean Deli, but more of a Ko-dega. And here's a little interesting publishing history.  I was talking to my friend Billy, another fan of the book, and he told me it was edited by Gillian Blake, who came over from Harper.  Apparently she brought the book with her, as the book still has a ghost ISBN that shows up on our website.  There is no paperback available. And also the price is a bit off in the database for the hardcover edition.  Somebody needs to update their database (and note, not us, as we have no control over this stuff.)

No comments: