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Flatbush Flashback

Love and Cynicism at the BEA

Having worked in publishing as a writer and editor for my entire misspent career, any cynicism I feel towards the industry is well earned. And though I obviously have a love for writing and publishing that's kept me going for the past several decades, in these times of economic and technological turmoil that's turned publishing upside down and inside out, it's often the cynicism that wins out. Which is to say, as I wandered yesterday through the wonderland of Bookexpo America, which is now taking place at the Javits Center in New York, what I felt were mixed emotions. Two things happened that seemed to encapsulate my feelings.

The first was when I went to the booth of a small publisher I’d had some dealings with many years ago. I was curious about a book they’d published that had similar themes to Beaver Street. The author was supposed to be signing it, and I wanted a free copy. It so happened that as I approached the booth, the author was in the midst of an animated conversation with one of the publisher’s employees. She was telling the author that he was going to have to pay for the carton of books that he was going to sign and give away on the publisher’s behalf. The author—the sort of fellow who struck me as a “real writer”—not surprisingly objected to this, and if I’m not mistaken, flatly refused to do so, displaying commendable backbone. And I thought, good for him, and hoped that under similar extortionary circumstances, I’d have done the same thing.

The second incident was my visit to the Authors Guild booth, which happens to be the organization that hosts this website and provides me with health insurance. I wanted to drop off some invitations for Bloomsday on Beaver Street, and was hoping they’d let me have a little of their very valuable counter space. Well, they not only let me have some counter space, but the two guys who were manning the booth (whose names I sadly forget) reacted with such genuine and astonishing enthusiasm to the event and to Beaver Street itself—“Wow! This is great! Who wouldn’t love this book?”—that I gave them a free copy and assured them that if they came to the event there would indeed be porn stars present. I walked away feeling good.

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