Category Archives: Conferences

Wednesday at Book Expo 2015

This is one of my favorite events of the year–a chance to meet authors and hear about forthcoming books, even take some home. The best. Today was the opening day, a half day really, starting at 12:30 with Laura Miller of salon.com interviewing Jonathan Franzen. A big crowd as you can imagine. Franzen had just come back from a birdwatching trip in east Africa and acknowledged that he was having a hard time inserting himself back into talking about the book, Purity, due out Sept. 1. He was, I’m going to say it, more than just a little inarticulate. I took notes as best I could and some interesting tidbits are below.

He talked about how each novel gets harder to write, because the early novels mine the easily accessible material, the stuff that’s most present. With each novel, he digs deeper, ultimately into areas that are difficult to write about. He talked about process–how he starts with an outline but once he starts writing  he always realizes that the book as outlined will never work. In fact, he wrote the first chapter of Purity quickly, based on the outline and was stuck; he didn’t go back to it until a year later.

Miller asked questions about the relationship between plot and character and Franzen spent some time discussing the conundrum of getting the reader to turn the pages in a novel where character takes precedence over plot.

An interesting note: the German edition of the book can’t be called Purity–the word carries too much baggage there.

From that interview I went up to the exhibit floor and waited on line to get a signed poster from Maira Kalman from her new book Beloved Dog. I told her that I had seen the small collection she curated at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum this winter and how interesting it was. She asked if I remembered seeing Toscanini’s pants and she told me that they belonged to her. She loaned them to the museum for the exhibit. (She also has the suit jacket.) I’d love to know what else she’s collected over the years. Of course I told her how much I loved the New Yorker “stans” cover.

Late in the afternoon, laden down with advance copies of books and some nifty canvas bags, I made my way back home. I’ll be back to the Javits at 9 tomorrow.

Reading Bytes: Online Resources for Readers’ Advisors

I was one of the speakers this past Wednesday at the workshop named above and thought it would be useful to post the handout, which lists links to book blogs and resources for librarians (and readers too). My part of the presentation was about online resources for finding good titles for book club discussion and resources for book group members. The presentation was part of the Adult Services Forum, organized by the Reference Section of the New Jersey Library Assoc.

The links on the list include sites for mystery, science fiction, romance, and literary fiction readers; sites like Early Word and Shelf Awareness to help keep up with what’s going on in the book world and publishing industry; and other interesting sites that will surely eat up your time but, hey, you probably won’t be sorry.

A great conference in Seattle

I just returned from the Association of Jewish Libraries Convention at the Seattle Fairmont Hotel after 3 wonderful, stimulating days re-connecting with friends and talking about Jewish books. I’ve been to numerous AJL conventions and there’s always a point, usually after the first lunch, when I begin to think about how sorry I’ll be when it’s over.

I gave a talk called The Other Side of the Coin: Jewish Memoirs for Fiction Readers, linking up fiction genres with memoirs, i.e., if you like historical fiction, try these memoirs. I talked about wonderful memoirs like Adam Hochschild’s Half the Way Home, Ida Cook’s Safe Passage, Philip Roth’s Patrimony, and Lucette Lagnado’s The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. You can see and print out the bibliography here.

I’ll write more about what I learned at the conference and from traveling around the Olympic Peninsula shortly.