Monday, May 22, 2006

More Book Babble

My last post, about the NYTIMES BOOK REVIEW (NYTBR) panel I attended at the DC BookExpo (BookExpoAmerica), discussed the drama and fun “literary circus” I witnessed as impassioned LitBloggers confronted Sam T., NYTBR editor, about his alleged allergy to fiction, per Ed Champion and others.

I have no feelings on this, currently, one way the other since I am not a serious reader of the NYTBR. However, I do scan it just about every week as part of my job (book acquisitions), but find the LIBRARY JOURNAL’s reviews as informative, if not more balanced between fiction and non-fiction – one of the LitBloggers apparent beefs with the NYTBR. I really appreciate the underdog and underground, so my heart and support go to the LitBloggers.

More importantly, there were books recommended by some of the panel participants (and recent NYTBR jurors for the What is the Bestest [sic] Work of Fiction Ever [Ever being the lifespan of a twenty-five year old]?) Cynthia Ozick recommended William Gaddis’s Carpenter’s Gothic and critic Liesl Schillinger stated Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant as favorite novels. Schillinger also mentioned Jonathan Foer and David Foster Wallace as edgy young writers.

WHAT I’M READING: more than 100 pages into Vollmann’s 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs (1992)

BLOG I’M CHECKING OUT: Good Books Guide Blog

Now, back to the paper I'm writing (or not writing)...

Friday, May 19, 2006

BookExpo DC - Truth About Fiction and more

Through the generosity of my employer, I went to the DC BookExpo at the DC Convention Center yesterday (5-18-06). The weekend events were more attractive, but, alas, my schedule would not allow such literary joy.

I attended some cool and informative workshops/seminars on blogging, international literature, and the soon-to-be infamous New York Times Book Review pick for Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years. The winner is... well go to NY TIMES to see.
Otherwise you'll have to wait until this Sunday's edition (conference attendees got a sneak preview). The panel was interesting and some egos were larger than others. See more details by reading Ed Champion's blog post about him questioning Sam T. about the nature of the NYTBR and why there isn't more fiction covered within, or women critics. I was sitting one row behind this Brownie Sender [see Ed Champion story] and it jazzed up what could've been a bore fest.

The moderator, and NYTBR editor, Sam Tanenhaus ("The Vulgarist"), used the forum primarily to plug the BOOK REVIEW, its literary merit, and his "choice" of reviewers, some assembled were Liesl Schillinger, Tom Mallon, and Cynthia Ozick. Actually, the jurors that selected the novels were academics, writers, critics, and other literary sorts that were sent letters (over 200) by Tanenhaus's staff (Greg Cowles). Mostly men replied and their votes were counted. The winner suprised literary Cynthia Ozick, who praised the writer's use of poetic form and themes, but felt other fiction is more worthy of the title: Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years (according to the establishment). Seriously, for all the talk that there aren't that many young writers on the list of jurors, well what about Dave Eggers, Chabon, Rick Moody, Lorrie Moore and Vollmann? I guess some aren't as young as their publicists make them seem, but their writing is fresh and young.

The highlight of the opening day (next to the Brownie War), for me, was keynote speaker Tim Russert. One cannot say bad things about Mr. Russert without feeling, well, bad. I had no expectations of the event beforehand, so was warmed, entertained, and inspired by his American stories. The son of a trash man, he told many stories of how fathers, and parents, impact the lives of their children. He spoke emotionally about his own father and humbly pitched his newest offering, THE WISDOM OF OUR FATHERS. I will put this on my summer reading list. The book contains some heartfelt letters in response to Russert's first book, BIG RUSS AND ME.

Washington, DC was bustling with activity as always. It had been about a year since I had visited and luckily I know the city well from my days as a technical recruiter (yuk!) and managed healthcare representative (also yuk, but with greater compensation). The teaser at the convention was seeing all the exhibitors loading in their wares and setting up their booths. Right, conference attendees on Thursday could not visit the exhibition area at all. Being a book lover and writer, I was eager to mill about the hall meeting agents, fellow writers, and publishers. Maybe next year. Additionally, they also have a concurrent writer's conference connected with - usually before - the Book Expo.

My favs are McSweeney's, Daedalus Books, and Soft Skull Press, but I was unable to grab hands with their representatives (I'll look on the Brightside, call me Mr. Brightside, since this meant less germ exposure. Howie Mandel would be proud).