Yesterday, September 16, was the Brooklyn Book Festival! What a day, and what a turnout. The ALP and I had a socially/personally packed weekend (turning in my business plan was just the beginning), so we didn't head over to Borough Hall and environs until around 3:00. But we still managed to fill a tote bag (purchased from Word) with new books, and see a lot of new and familiar faces, some of whom I'll name-drop here
First stop was the Small Beer Press table, where the inimitable Gavin Grant was fending off the hordes. I chatted with Gavin about an event at the bookstore with their Interfictions anthology later in October, and snagged a copy of The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, published by Del Rey but edited by Grant, to peruse for potential additions to our Halloween party lineup (and for the joy of smart, literate genre fiction, of course).
This was about the time we realized we were going to need to hit the ATM.
We'd already done some damage at a used bookstore on 7th Avenue earlier in the day, but there was no way we were going to be able to resist the bounty of books we'd never seen before on vendor tables. (I can't find the ALP's stack right now, but I know he got a new volume from the Continuum 33 1/3 music series (on "Born in the USA"), a cool cultural history of children's traditions called The Games Black Girls Play from NYU Press, the Evasion-English Dictionary from Melville House, and various other titles from poetry to novels to nonfiction.)
We stopped by the Overlook Press table and ran into the hilarious loose canon of book enthusiasm that is Jim Behrle; we exclaimed over their new reissue of the incredible Gormenghast trilogy in its original three separate volumes (the single volume weighs a ton and is difficult to sell, though it's beloved by everyone from C.S. Lewis to Quentin Crisp), commented on the incredible niceness of Slaves of the Shinar author Justin Allen, and cracked up at the ponderous outdoorsiness of the reissued tome on rodeo Let 'Er Buck.
I said hi to the folks selling books on behalf of HousingWorks Used Book Cafe, and shared excitement about the upcoming Open Air Book Fair on September 29, which McNally Robinson will participate in. (Along with the embarassing pleasure of having a Housing Works employee tell me she loves The Written Nerd, I got the added satisfaction of the phrase "And is that the Adorably Literate Partner?")
I sought out and met Jay Baron Nicorvo, Membership Director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, who posted a comment on this post last week inviting me to join a panel on blogging at the clmp's Literary Writers Conference in November. Of course I'm delighted -- I love having conversations about book world issues in public, and hope I'll be useful -- and grateful to Ron Hogan for recommending me. Invite by blog comment -- a clever way to fill out a blogging panel, eh?
We ran into an old coworker of the ALP -- Derek White, who now heads litmag Sleeping Fish and indie Calamari Press. Derek is one of the writers published by Calamari and designs most of the covers, which I think are beautiful and disturbing; he's clearly found his calling, and I think a lot of publishers should be looking to him for good ideas in well-done indie design. I picked up a poetry collection by Peter Markus called The Singing Fish which looks irresistible.
Unexpectedly, publicist extraordinaire Molly Miklowski was manning the Coffee House Press booth -- she's usually found nearer the publisher's headquarters in Minneapolis, so it was a treat to see her. (Remember Firmin at the LBC? -- Molly helped make that happen, and we sighed over our love of Firmin once again). She pressed upon me Brenda Coultas' poetry collection The Marvelous Bones of Time, another Halloween-appropriate offering, and if Molly's taste is anything to go by another winner.
Molly also introduced me to her table-mate, Bob Hershon of Hanging Loose Press, which just happens to be Brooklyn's oldest independent publisher (since 1966). As Bob pointed out, it's funny that a friend in common thousands of miles away should bring together book people who live in the same borough! He passed along his collection Calls from the Outside World and we traded praise for Sherman Alexie, who published his first collection with Hanging Loose when he was practically a kid. Can't wait to get these guys -- who are still putting out cool new work -- into the store for an Indie Press Night.
What else? -- Stopped by BookCourt's booth to say hi to Henry and Zack, and ran into another old friend, Random House sales rep Annette-Trial O'Neil, who's always a trip. Visited the cool artists' collective Booklyn to make a deal on some chapbooks and learned about their bookmaking courses (and their cool T-shirts). Chatted with Dennis Johnson of Melville House about the amazing success of The Little Girl and the Cigarette and the economics of hardcover vs. paperback original. Saw Zoe and Tom at the Archipelago and A Public Space booths, respectively. I'm sure there were other encounters -- forgive me if I spoke to you and haven't mentioned you here, and thank you for adding to the joy of the Festival.
Didn't make it to any of the readings, which were rich and plentiful. But as we wandered toward home as the Festival wound down around 6:00, we noticed Pete Hamill chatting with Jonathan Safran Foer in front of Borough Hall. A little further along was Chuck Klosterman, surrounded by a bevy of admirers. And a few yards later, Jonathan Lethem answered questions from a reporter or friend -- it was hard to tell.
It was lovely to walk home in the fall air with our bag of books and plans for dinner, just like people in any other town. But it was especially clear yesterday that Brooklyn, though it can feel at its best like a small town, isn't like any other town, anywhere.