As I wait for Leslie to arrive for our Friday walk, I can’t help but share my favorite photo & story from Book Expo 2010. This piece running in today’s Shelf Awareness, where you can find lots of ‘enlightened’ news, photos, and information about the world of books, publishers, bookstores, and authors:
The Singing Novelist
Joseph Skibell, author of The Curable Romantic
Algonquin author Joseph Skibell played a whimsical-yet-erudite two-minute song promoting himself and his third novel for a delighted group of librarians who gathered to hear him and his publisher-publicist duo–Elizabeth Charlotte and Michael Taeckens–discuss the route a book follows from inception to publication in a Thursday morning ALA-sponsored panel, “From Writer to Reader.”
Skibell, whose debut novel, A Blessing on the Moon, had outstanding reviews but less-so sales, is bringing his third book to market with a stellar endorsement from Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee. Algonquin is re-releasing his first novel in trade paperback to coincide with the September 2010 publication date of A Curable Romantic. A scholar and playwright, Skibell’s novels flirt with post-modern magical realism while embracing themes of Jewish mysticism, love, exile, and the search for meaning in tales of modern displacement and yearning.
Skibell’s instrument of choice is a backpacking guitar, and his song was set to a Gilbert & Sullivan tune. The title? “I Am the Very Model of A Modern Major Novelist.”–Laurie Lico Albanese
I am happy to report that I spent 3 days in Manhattan walking in some of my most fashionable shoes. I carried the sandals that make me look like I’ve escaped from the kibbutz but I only put them on once!
Pam, who also covered the book expo for the publishing media, says I should line up all my shoes, take photos of them, and let them tell their own little stories about life on MyBigWalk.
I think that’s a wonderful idea — watch for it next week.
Meanwhile, On my last day at BEA I covered a library panel because my favorite editor, Chuck Adams, was scheduled to be there. He wasn’t. But I met a very wonderful writer — Joseph Skibell — whose newest book, A Curable Romantic, is set in Vienna and elsewhere in the Jewish diaspora of eastern and northern Europe between 1890 and 1940, and I think it was a serendipitous meeting ( I’m going to Vienna in another month myself, to begin research on a new book).
And as we know, guys, serendipity is the spice of life.
Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, must’ve signed at least a hundred books at Book Expo in NYC today. People waited in a long line to meet her. But they were served nice big pieces of caramel cake while they waited. I heard, by the way, that Stockett got a “sweet” deal on her movie rights.
Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help
Today, tomorrow, and Thursday, I will be doing my walking at Jacob Javitz Center, where the American Booksellers Association is holding the annual American Book Expo conference. Naturally there will be lots of buzz about e-books and the future of publishing. One thing I, personally, believe, is that the fate of the book is not the same as the fate of the novel, or the memoir, or the nonfiction literary book.
Writing and communicating has changed over time — from hieroglyphics to papyrus scrolls to linen paper for correspondence and record-keeping. The oral tradition gave way to hand painted manuscripts, leather-bound books, and finally Gutenberg made it possible to put a Bible in every household and eventually one ever motel room, too.
The human need for stories is much stronger than any recording or transmitting device. Stories, books, novels, newspapers — they tell us who we are, where we belong in the universe, and how we might live, or live better, or at least live well enough to love and endure. Stories are humanity’s way of speaking to one another across cultures, across oceans, and across time. We have a need to connect and we do it, in part, through the stories we tell and the stories we pass on and the stories we share.
I-pads, Kindle, google books, these things are not going to change our need for stories; neither our need to create them, nor our need to share them.
The book as an object composed of bound paper may someday become obsolete. Publishers are going to continue to struggle to stay ahead of the marketplace revolution and to stay relevant to authors and consumers. Writers and journalists are going to have to fight to be paid for what they write, and are going to have to evolve with the times.
I don’t agree with the guys at Wired who say that information wants to be free. Fire wants to be free, too. Water wants to be free. Anybody’s who’s watching the news in the gulf knows that oil wants to be free, too.
People want to hear and share stories. That’s not going to change. And so as I go off to cover Book Expo America 2010 for Shelf Awareness, I’m going to be paying particular attention to the conference sessions that are covering the future of books in electronic form. Someday children may not ask to turn the page of a book, any more than they ask to dial the phone or put on a record. But stories heal us. Stories instruct us. Stories are the beginning of our humanity, and that is not going to change.
Watch for my updates from BEA. I can assure you I will be doing a lot of walking at the Javitz Center to find the stories and the sights that I’ll be seeing, hearing, and sharing.