Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
In my continuing report to you on BEA, next up is Editor Buzz, which like the CEO round table, occurs before the convention officially opens. Each of six editors is asked to create “buzz” for a book he or she has been working on and is especially excited about. This panel might not be the penultimate for us in figuring out trends, but we can learn at least what gets editors’ juices flowing.
Paul Elie from FSG chose a nonfiction title to boost, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, by Harvard professor Michael Sandel. Calling the book “wisdom literature for the age of Obama,” Elie describes it as a book that asks the hard questions of our day, questions that encompass how we frame our world views. No easy answers are offered, of course, for what would be the fun in reading such a book? I thought of the book as a reflection of the moral ambiguity our society struggles with and suspect it would stimulate plenty of good discussion. In terms of trends, this selection tells us there’s still plenty of room to think “aloud” in our writing about where society is heading and why it’s going in that direction.
Two memoirs were selected; so chalk up “memoir” as still being a trend. Alexis Gargagliano at Scribner talked up Alex Lemon’s Happy, which follows Lemon’s struggles with addiction and a stroke he suffered when in college at age 19. “His sentences are visceral and gripping,” she told the audience. “It’s like gauze being unfurled to reveal a maze of transformed scars.”
Norton’s Bob Weil selected Stitches as the book to present. A memoir by Caldecott winner David Small,
Stitches is a “groundbreaking work that has brought the graphic novel to new heights,” according to the editor. The memoir recounts, mostly in pictures with sparse usage of words, Small’s life after his father, a radiologist, gave Small massive doses of radiation to cure unknown ailments when Small was a young teen. Cancer developed as a result, and it appeared Small would die. Weil found the work to be “a silent movie masquerading as a book.” So score another one for memoirs and add a point for graphic novels.
Deb Futter at Grand Central wanted to talk about a debut novel, Roses, which she found was “a throwback to the old-fashioned good read…, a dynastic saga set in Texas.” So score one for sagas. (I have an advanced copy and have dipped into the first paragraph. So far I’m not wowwed, but I’m withholding judgment.)
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper was the pick of Ben Sevier at Dutton. The story follows a guy who learns his wife is having an affair and is pregnant; on that same day he finds out his father has died, and the family gathers together to grieve–and to renew their dysfunctional ways. “Funny, emotionally raw” and “walks the line between heavy and light” were descriptors the editor used.
The final editor to present was Harriet Popham Rigney of Tor, who talked only in veiled terms about Brandon Sanderson’s Memory of Light, which is a continuation of Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic, Wheel of Time. Jordan died in 2007, and Rigney chose Sanderson to carry on with the series, signing him to write three books. So give fantasy a score, although, with a Tor editor as a presenter, that’s not a surprising genre for her to select.
What do we learn from this session with the editors? I came away with the thought that a provocative book about the state of our societal mind and soul can garner an editor’s attention; that memoir continues to be very big in the general market; that a complex novel about a dysfunctional family still has a home in the general market; and, most suprising to me, that a rangeing saga, which according to the editor, would appeal to young readers and older readers because it’s more about the reader wanting to stop the characters from ruining their lives than following story threads of violence or sex. A clean read; what a novel idea!