BookExpo 2015

It’s that time of year again… BookExpo America! Three days of bookish ballyhoo, featuring an assorted cast of publishers, buyers, and book nerds from across the country…

BEA 15 01And so we put on our sensible shoes and headed off to the ginormous glass monstrosity that is the Javits Center for our annual dose of destiny and power books. (If you missed BookExpo but fancy a trip to the Javits Center anyway, I’m sure there are still tickets available for future Javitsian expos of the non-literary variety… Plastics Today or Cannabis World Congress, anyone?)

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Your tote bag game was strong this year, BEA! Well done. And we can’t wait to take a look at all the intriguing catalogs we happily toted home; nothing gives us more pleasure than contemplating our upcoming orders from brilliant indie presses like BiblioasisNew York Review of Books, and Graywolf Press.

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Of particular interest—three fantastic titles coming up from San Francisco’s City Lights, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Keep an eye out for I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career (correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and City Lights’ founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti); Pictures of the Gone World (a limited edition reprint of City Lights’ first book, a collection of poetry by Ferlinghetti); and Shock Treatment (a 25th anniversary edition of the first book by iconoclastic performance artist/poet Karen Finley).

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If it’s not already obvious, we love small, independent presses! Even really small presses.

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Of course, the publishing giants were out in full force (is it just me, or was the Ellora’s Cave booth surprisingly low on be-thonged spokespeople this year?) and they had some… interesting offerings lined up. No, we won’t be stocking any of the three titles pictured above—but a taco cleanse does sound pretty fun.

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Puzzling Out Tender Buttons

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the original publication of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Described variously as “explosive, tantalizing, and delicious” and “the fullest realization of the turn to language,” Tender Buttons is a modernist masterpiece of unpredictable delights. And it’s also a famously difficult read—Stein claimed she was attempting to “make words write without sense,” and many readers come away from a Tender Buttons encounter shaking their heads at what can seem like a “maddeningly opaque” jumble of words.

Given its rather challenging reputation, Tender Buttons might seem like a tricky work to share with an audience of poetry lovers—but poet Daniel Carter can pull it off in fine style. Daniel has designed a puzzle-based edition of Tender Buttons that provides readers “with new models of engagement and the infrastructures needed to enable them.” And last Thursday Daniel (below left) and musician Chris Ledesma (right) stopped by Malvern Books to treat us to an interactive evening of Tender Buttons escapades, featuring tales of a failed salad cake, an ode to Encino Man, and a performance from a distorted banana.

Daniel Carter and Chris Ledesma

As well as puzzling out a little of Stein’s enigmatic goodness, we also celebrated the release of City Lights’ new centennial edition of Tender Buttons (fanned out below). This is the first version to incorporate Stein’s own handwritten corrections (discovered in a first-edition copy at the University of Colorado), as well as corrections discovered among her papers at the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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We had a packed house (thanks, in part, to a lovely preview in the Austin Chronicle), and I think we can safely say that the audience enjoyed their guided journey through the intriguing world of Tender Buttons. Hearty thanks to Daniel and Chris for providing us all with a fascinating introduction to a work that now seems a lot less scary and a lot more fun.