BookExpo America: Initial Report

The two words that come to mind are “junior size.” With Macmillan off the floor altogether and even HarperCollins seeing reduced foot traffic, one wanders BookExpo’s floors in search of innovation, only to find one’s self subsumed in a heap of remainders. Perhaps BookExpo needs a reboot. The panel discussion is chintzy. The conversations are desperate. And everybody asks around for the remaining parties containing an open bar.

The most profound floor interview I have conducted so far was one with Clifford the Big Red Dog. He did not answer my questions about BookExpo’s future, despite my persistence. And regrettably he offered neither bark nor bite about the future of the publishing industry. I will be posting a YouTube clip later when it is possible to do so. But I keep thinking of BEA as a Big Red Dog. Perhaps shaggier and with less appeal than Clifford.

Some authors dress in desperate costumes. Others ask talk show producers how they can get on without a publicist. BookExpo feels very much like the live version of an issue of a monthly writing magazine. You’re just waiting to run into the human equivalent of some classified ad in the back hoping to scam you for some writing contest. I’m surprised there aren’t more people here with jars asking for tips.

I don’t even know why journalists are covering it. I don’t even know why I’m covering it really. I ran into Bella Stander this morning and, within our jocular exchange, she asked me why I was here. I told her that I was here to have fun. But it is difficult to get people excited when they are determined to remain so gloomy.

If BookExpo doesn’t do something fast, it will become some ossified corpse without even the consolation of a wake. But there is no Ronald D. Moore around to remind us why it is so important.

BEA Blogger Signing

Since today is apparently self-promotion day, I should point out that I have been signed up for a blogger signing at BEA. On Sunday, May 31, at 1:00 PM, at BookExpo America, I will be at Booth #4077 with bloggers Carey Anderson and Sarah Weinman to sign things. I am not sure what things will need to be signed, but I draw the line at credit card receipts to fund your child’s private education. If you don’t have anything for me to sign, I can sing to you. And if you want to avoid my terrible singing voice, I’ll be happy to just say hello. There may even be some baked goods, but I have been informed by the people organizing this that Jacob Javits Security is arresting anybody who dares to disseminate homemade cookies. You may want to stop on by anyway to see what this is all about.

Plans For My Literary Ego

I’ve been getting a number of emails about BEA. And by “number,” let’s just say that it’s not a big number. In fact, the number is so small that I have been spending hours trying to rebuild my dwindling ego and pretend that the number is actually greater than it really is. Keith Gessen probably gets more emails on the subject of BEA than I do. And he’s in Russia right now. And goddammit, that makes me so mad. Why should Keith Gessen get more emails than I do? I mean, I’m spending a good deal of my time burning pictures of Keith Gessen that I download on the Internet. Particularly the ones of him in which the top button or two of his shirt has been unbuttoned. He has replaced Steve Almond as my primary subject of hate. So fuck you, Keith Gessen. And fuck you, New York Post. (It seems to me that I should likewise throw a random newspaper into my sad mix of enmity and self-loathing. And, well, why not The New York Post? I will cut it out of my life from now on. It’s the only way to be sure.)

Before I tell you what my decision is about BEA, let’s talk about the world. After all, the world revolves around me — and by “world,” I’m talking about an extremely small part of the literary world, and by “literary world,” well, let’s just say that half of half of half of half of one percent of anybody who has had the good fortune to shake my hand in the past six hours really cares about any of this. But it is a world nonetheless. And it is an ego that must be groomed, trimmed, and otherwise packed into a precious valise.

But in thinking about the emails that are coming in and in thinking about how this relates to the solipsistic world I live in, it’s permitted me to think about the possibility of whether or not I might be attending BEA.

Let us establish my credentials: I have taken in every BEA that has ever happened like blow snorted off the top of a Hollywood hooker’s sternum. When it comes to BEA, there can be no better expert than me on how to attend, report, and take meetings. I am the BEA Master. There will be an area of the exhibition floor named after me. That is how much I matter.

But I am not so sure I can be coaxed to make a decision until BEA actually happens. Let’s just say that I welcome speculation on whether I will or will not be at BEA from anyone who cares to send speculations.

P.S. Please buy my paperback.

P.P.S. For something far less egotistical and commercial-oriented, consider the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys.

[UPDATE: In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the narcissism being satirized in this post belongs to Mark Sarvas, not me. But to set the matter straight, I have added a 2009 introduction to the 2005 post I wrote about Steve Almond. Other than this preface, I have not altered that post or the comments in any way. Unlike Mark, I actually maintain history and I own up. I have also emailed an apology to Steve Almond.

To read all the boring sordid details, you can go to that post. I’ve learned, without even going out of my way to do so, that Mark has been meaner and snobbier to far more people in the publishing world than I could ever possibly desire to be spiteful to. (And I fully admit that I’m not always the easiest guy.) But, boy, was I wrong about Mark big time.]