Well that was fun.
It's been a week since Chris and I returned from Winter Institute, the American Booksellers Association's annual education-oriented, non-trade show event. I'll say this. New Orleans is about as unlike Vermont as you can get and still be in this country. I went to a club that played only 80's music while projecting an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie on a screen as two people of indeterminate gender danced on either side of the stage. I experienced the sublime pleasure of hearing Ellis Marsalis's quartet at the legendary Snug Harbor. I rode a trolley. I ate po' boys, boudin balls, and Krispy Kreme bread pudding from a truck. And on my last morning there, comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt, I dined outside on beignets and coffee. Only to return that same night to a frigid and windy welcome home. Somehow I was glad to be here.
Surprisingly, my time in New Orleans wasn't all about music and eating. There were hundreds of booksellers there with the common purpose of trying to learn how to be better booksellers. In these tumultuous times, the mood was hopeful, if not positive, if not downright buoyant. Across the country bookstores of all sizes, serving all kinds of markets reported having great holiday seasons. Smart and creative people abound in the world of independent bookselling and if you don't learn something of value while spending three or four days in their midst, well, you have to be really hung over.
In addition to our bookselling peers, publishers and authors were at Winter Institute in force. There was tremendous buzz about Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son which is now available and getting stellar reviews. If this novel piques your interest in fiction about North Korea, author and Winter Institute attendee Brandon Jones will publish All Woman and Springtime this May. Of Jones's first novel, Alice Walker says, "One of the most absorbing, chilling, beautifully written, and important novels I've read in many years." I continue to carry the flag for Buzz Bissinger's Father's Day, the amazing story about his remarkable son due in May. It was a pleasure meeting Richard Ford whose Canada (June) Alden reviewed here last week. Since leaving Louisiana, I have immersed myself in this long-awaited new novel from the Pulitzer-Prize winning author whose last book, The Lay of the Land, was a favorite of mine in 2006. I'm also excited about Capital, by John Lanchester (also due in June) whose The Debt to Pleasure made a literary splash in 1996. (READ MORE)