Yesterday I visited Book Expo America here in Manhattan. With so much distress in the economy generally, and within the publishing industry specifically, I was pleased to find BEA relatively crowded and the mood fairly upbeat. As several industry veterans told me, this year "it's all about the books," meaning less focus on gimmicky giveaways and over-the-top hype. I felt this as well, having attended or worked several BEAs, and many other trade shows.
Some quick, initial impressions, wholly idiosyncratic of course, and broken into three posts for your convenience (and mine!):
The Overlook Press can be counted on to deliver very smart writing by authors with very distinctive personalities--their backlist includes Burroughs, Ferlinghetti, Barthelme, Sitwell, Freya Stark, James Branch Cabell, Mervyn Peake, Philip Jose Farmer, Norman Spinrad, among others (plus Wodehouse!). So I anticipate good things when Overlook in October publishes When Autumn Leaves by Amy Foster. Ms. Foster was on hand to sign my advanced reading copy. Judging from her badinage as she signed and from the pages I read last night in the ARC, this novel will be one you'll want to buy.
Candlewick Press has its usual strong line-up, featuring combos of magical prose and lush graphics. Three titles coming out in August and September grabbed me particularly: Leon and the Place Between, a picture book for young readers by Angela McAllister with illustrations by Grahame Baker-Smith; photographer David Ellwand's second Fairie-Ality book, A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature; and Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant, with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka. The latter opens with orphan Peter Augustus Dechene visiting a fortune-teller in the city of Baltese "at the end of the century before last," to ask about his sister's fate--only to be told that, while his sister lives, he must follow the elephant to find her. "'You are having fun with me,' he said. "There are no elephants here.'" Ah, but there are, as we learn at the end of the sample chapter...I cannot wait to follow the rest of the story.
David R. Godine, Publisher scooped everyone by bringing out J.M.G. Le Clezio long before the French author won last year's Nobel for Literature. In September 2009, Godine publishes C. Dickson's English translation of Le Clezio's 1980 novel, Desert. I lapped up the first two chapters of the ARC this morning.
Coffee House Press celebrates its 25th birthday this year by publishing in September, among others, Ray of the Star by Laird Hunt. "Set in a dream-like European city reminiscent of Barcelona, along a boulevard teeming with artists who perform as living statues, comes the beautiful and frightening story of a man running from his past, a woman consumed by grief, and the forces that pursue them both." The blurb hooks me. Just out in their spring list is Brian Evenson's story collection Fugue State, with a fabulous cover by Zak Sally. From Evenson's story "Mudder Tongue": "Language was starting to slip in his mouth, words substituting themselves for each other, and while his own thoughts remained as lucid as ever, sometimes they could be made manifest on his tongue only if they were wrung out or twisted or set with false eyes. False eyes? Something like that." Few capture gnawing, cat-footed fear the way Evenson does. Zombies and vampires we can defeat, but words that mutiny on your tongue...?
Tor, as one of the heavyweights in spec fic, has a large catalogue for the fall. I look forward to two in particular: Steven Erikson's Bauchelain and Korbal Broach: Three Short Novels of the Malazan Empire (a diabolical killer in the port of Lamentable Moll, an unseemly terror in the hold of the ship Suncurl, catastrophe in the city of Quaint...all in a day's work for the two wizards and their ill-fortuned servant Emancipor Reese), and Canticle by Ken Scholes(the second in his series about the Named Lands).
Orbit has two debut novels coming out that intrigue me: in November, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington ("the pious yet ignoble and grave robbing twins attempt to keep their faith...[in] a world of living saints and livelier demons--and of monsters and madmen...profane...funny...horrifying"); and in February, 2010, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin ("...the truth about her mother's death and her family's bloody history--as well as unsettling truths within herself....the story of humans who are subject to the whims of the gods, of a young woman thrown into a world of politics that she can barely understand...and of a love that transcends death").
Part II of my BEA report tomorrow, Part III on Tuesday.