Yes and no. On one hand, it was a delight to meet up with various litbloggers, editors, publishing heads and writers. (I even got a chance to talk with Paul Slovak.) But as Miss Snark put it before all the craziness, “BEA will break your heart.”
If you have every desire to see so many fantastic books drowned out by boisterous arrays of people standing in line for the likes of Robert Duvall and if you soak up marketing terminology the way that a vacationer throws a damp cloth on his head on a summer day, then BEA is most certainly your thing. If you absolutely must have that galley of Lay of the Land a few weeks before everyone else, then by all means hie away. But for any self-respecting literary journalist, these are easily obtained through the mail. When I observed people standing by the Night Shade booth and made a few passionate endorsements of M. John Harrison to people wandering the floor, I found that very few people actually cared about the quality of the books proffered. They were more interested in scoring free books or meaningless autographs with celebrities. When D’Ambrosio and Link offered thoughtful comments about the current state of the short story, an inevitable “What are the bennies?” question was asked.
Granted, it is vital for everyone to understand that publishing is a business. But it is certainly not just about money. At least not for those who still care about books or for those who realize that publishing is second only to Hollywood in its utterly unsound business model, where lavish advances are thrown into the ether and books are dumped into the market often without a concentrated or targeted plan.
It takes a certain type of person to come to terms with that reality. And I would argue that for literary enthusiasts and champions, wearing multiple hats like this isn’t an easy thing. (It certainly wasn’t easy for me.)
So was it worth it? Well, it was worth every penny to learn that this man has almost no sense of humor whatsoever: