Book Expo, bookoxygen and books, books, books

Elsbeth Lindner

Free ice cream, waffles, candy, magazines, meditation CDs, posters, t-shirts, sippy cups, stationery of all kinds (a special thank you to whoever it was handing out pencils in the shape of Mickey Mouse, although the eraser is a bit tricky to use), lapel pins, and tote bags beyond number. This was Book Expo America 2014, the usual jaw-dropping cornucopia of swag – and that’s before you get to the books, authors and giveaway galleys.

This year bookoxygen visited on the show’s penultimate day, Friday 30 May, when authors were thick on the ground. Colm Toibin could be seen gamely signing free copies; the line for Carl Hiaasen was immense and never seemed to get shorter; Andy Cohen, less tall and more pale than his TV self, looked a tad nervous. Over in the ‘autographing area’, scores of writers were flexing their fingers: Brad Meltzer, Meg Wolitzer, Eoin Colfer and many many more.

As thunderclouds gathered in the skies above New York’s Javits Center, so inside, among the booths, the gossip was all about the Godzilla-esque struggle between Amazon and Hachette. But the blogosphere – catered for even more widely at this fair, as bloggers’ role in book promotion is credited as crucial to the spread of ‘word of mouth’ in our era – was single-mindedly focused on the books and the writers, the signing lines and the giveaways.

bookoxygen was modest in its haul of freebies. Sarah Waters’ latest, The Paying Guest, set in 1920s London in a household of genteel poverty, was definitely worth the heft (nearly 600pp, published by Virago in the UK in August, Riverhead in the US in September), as is a widely discussed debut from another Brit, Jessie Burton, entitled The Miniaturist (Picador in the UK, July, and Ecco in the US, August). This intriguing historical is set in an icy, Vermeer-esque Amsterdam, full of unpredictability and heartbreak. Also highly anticipated were Lila, the latest from Marilynne Robinson, Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl and the new novel from Jane Smiley, Some Luck.

Legs aching, back bowed from the weight of paper, bookoxygen slipped away from the proceedings without glimpsing the likes of David Mitchell and Jodi Picoult, feeling well enough served by the day’s experience and ready for a bit of a lie down. A final shout-out, though, to for the free bottle of water handed out to visitors leaving the showground. Ambrosia could not have tasted sweeter.

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