Monday, June 11, 2018

2018 Book Expo -- Editor Buzz

As usual, Wendi and I started off our Book Expo adventure with the Editor Buzz session. Six editors from different imprints were on hand to talk about the books they are eager to get in the public's hands come fall. (One requirement for selection is for the book to come out between August and January.) Often the book is a debut, but that's not mandatory. Authors with a long--read "successful"--track record are not eligible for inclusion. With that info in hand, we were off.

First up was Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks. I have to admit I wasn't particularly eager to hear about this book. After all, I'm not a parent. But the backstory is interesting.

In 2014, Brooks left her young son unattended in her car while she ran into a store to get a headset so he could watch a movie on a flight later that day. When she arrived home, she learned a bystander had filmed the child alone in the car--happily playing on his iPad--and called the police. (They tracked Brooks down through her mother, whose car she had been driving.) Brooks was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A two year court battle ensued, at the end of which Brooks was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and 20 hours of parenting education.

Brooks wrote an essay about the experience that ran in Salon magazine. (You can read it by clicking here.) The essay went viral and led to Small Animals. In the book, Brooks explores issues like who gets to decide what's appropriate in the realm of childrearing and the impact of parenting laws on the poor. The book will be out in August.

Ohio by Stephen Markley was next up. The presenter said the book "might be the first novel to grapple with the great recession [of 2008]" but that such a characterization would be reductive. He reported that one bookseller who'd read an advance copy called it a novel "that reads like a Springstein song." I was intrigued.

Ohio deals with issues of 9/11, unemployment, opioids, Obama and Rustville through the eyes of four high school classmates who converge on their hometown ten years after graduation. The story was inspired by Markley's own visit to his hometown when he was in his late 20s. 

Markley said in an interview he was "pretty lost in life, banging around the bars, and having strange conversations with a range of people [he'd] known in high school. It all ended in a truly explosive thunderstorm with an old friend being pulled out of the car we were in and arrested....It was something about all those conversations of loss and longing combined with the way events can hurtle forward with unpredictable momentum [that led to Ohio]." It's on my to-read list. The novel will be out in August. 

I'm not sure what to make of the next book -- She Would Be King by Wayetu Moore. The "magical realism" aspect of the novel puts me off (although I note that Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude and Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate fall squarely into this genre). 

In the book, Moore re-envisions the founding of Liberia, her home country. Moore's characters include Gbessa, a girl cursed at birth. Pursuant to the customs of the tribe, a village boy is tasked to kill her when she reaches the age of 13. But Gbessa survives and eventually settles with some African-Americans (freed slaves) who are taking over the country. The historical aspect of the book sounds fascinating, so I might give it a whirl. Its publication date is in September. 

Casey Gerald's There Will Be No Miracles Here "explodes the idea of what a memoir can do" according to the book's editor. Gerald certainly has had an interesting life -- and he's barely 30 years old.

The book starts in Dallas 1999 at an end-of-the-world gathering at the black evangelical church of Gerald's grandfather. Who will be carried off?  (Spoiler alert -- nobody, although Gerald's mother was prone to frequent absences.)

After a strange and challenging childhood, Gerald found himself at Yale on a football scholarship and then Harvard Business School. He has opened for President Obama and given a commencement address at his alma mater. But Gerald is perhaps best known for his TED Talk entitled "The Gospel of Truth."  (To listen to the talk, click here.) 

While Gerald's memoir is in some ways a classic rags to riches story, he has much more to say about the world in which we live. There Will Be No Miracles Here will hit bookstores in October.

I was a bit nonplussed at the intro to Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. "How many of you have maids?" the editor asked a SRO crowd. A spattering of hands went up, including mine. "And how many of you have worked as a maid?" she continued. Many more hands went up, including that of the editor herself. Welcome to the real world.

The memoir opens with an emotional wallop: "My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter." In the book, Land tells how a single mother managed to support herself and her daughter for five years on $9/hour. It's a book representing a "voiceless, faceless group." For readers of non-fiction, it's being billed as Evicted meets Nickeled and Dimed.

Land managed to extract herself from her poverty and went to college in her 30s. Maid began as an essay she wrote while there that was picked up by Vox. (To read the essay, click here.) The book comes out in January.

What sounded like the best book of the lot was left for last. (How else could they keep hundreds of readers engaged when there were tables of galleys to be grabbed?) The book: The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman.

Much, of course, has been written about Nabakov's Lolita. But Weinman seems to be the first who paid real attention to a throw-away line in which Humbert Humbert asks himself, "Had I done to [Lolita] what Frank La Salle did to Sally Horner?"

Who, Weinman wondered, were these people? It turns out young Sally was caught stealing a notebook by a man masquerading as an FBI agent. La Salle persuaded Sally to stay with him (presumably in return for her "freedom"), and the pair traveled for two years on the road as father and daughter. This happened in the late 1940s, around the time Nabakov was searching for inspiration for his next novel.

Nabakov never shared the background of Lolita and in fact took some pains to hide any parallels to the real-life drama. He tried to burn his work papers for the novel, but his wife salvaged them. These papers were an integral part of the "literary detective work" Weinman did for her book. The Real Lolita hits bookstores in September. A back-to-back reading of The Real Lolita and Lolita might be in order.

As I always say, so many books, so little time. 

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