I didn’t spend much time at Book Expo itself this year, where the floor felt more crowded and chaotic than it did in 2011, and I shared the general feeling of disappointment with the BEA Bloggers Conference. But I really enjoyed my time in New York City, and that was largely due to the people I was able to spend it with and the things we did together.
Not that there wasn’t bookish fun as well, of course! This was the first year I went to any of the BEA Book & Author Breakfasts. I went to both of the Adult ones–”adult” as in “not for kids” books, not as in NC-17 content, that is–and really enjoyed them. The food was nothing special, but the speakers were good–star fiction writers hosted by celebrity authors (as Barbara Kingsolver said at Tuesday’s event, these days it seems like the person least likely to get a book contract is a writer). There were books for the guests and, at Tuesday’s breakfast, 3D glasses for everyone in the promo for Stephen Colbert’s fall book, America Again.
Theater and Teresa seem to go together. Three nights earlier, just a few hours after both Kim and I had landed in New York, we went with her to experience Sleep No More, which isn’t a show you merely “see.” It’s a strange and fascinating piece of performance art based on Macbeth with a touch of Rebecca and a lot of 1940s film-noir atmosphere, and it takes place throughout its performance space, the McKittrick Hotel; audience members, all wearing white masks, follow the performers around, up and down stairs and in and out of rooms, and several scenes are usually going on simultaneously in different staging areas. We stopped at a diner after the show to get dessert and compare notes on what we’d seen, and we’d all seen something different. It’s really quite a head trip, and difficult to explain, so I’d recommend you read what Jenny and Teresa said about it when they saw it last year–Kim and I went along on Teresa’s third viewing. It’s still hard for me to make sense out of it (two weeks later!), and it’s also difficult to forget it.
I went to Ellis Island with Teresa, Kim, and Lu on Sunday afternoon. We were meeting Karen and Memory for dinner afterward, but we arrived a bit early. Lucky for us that the restaurant was close to the Strand, and we had no trouble killing a little time there. (But since BEA week hadn’t even started yet, no one bought very much.)
Publishers hosted events all week long. I was invited to some of them, and despite the noise and hubbub that goes with most cocktail parties (and one breakfast), saw many of the people I’d hoped to see and had pretty decent conversations with some of them. I don’t feel like I met very many new people this year, aside from those I was introduced to by people I knew already, but I’m less bothered about that than perhaps I should be. I went to New York wanting to spend time off-line with people I was already friends with online, and with people whose company I’d enjoyed during BEA week in 2011 (in at least some cases, these were the same people). I had many chances to do that, and I’m very glad I did. I’m also very glad that Kim was my roommate this year, as I especially enjoyed rehashing things with her back at the hotel each night.
I went to New York on the Saturday before BEA started and went home on the Thursday evening it ended. I was ready to be done with Book Expo, but not really ready to leave the city. I was born in New York City to two natives, but I didn’t grow up there, and before 2010, I hadn’t been back for more than twenty years. Now I want to visit every year if I can. I want to go back with Tall Paul, but until we can make that happen, Book Expo gives me a perfect excuse to make the trip to the city–and a fine framework to see some of my favorite people in the world, my book-blogging BFFs.