|Unidentified BEA attendee with bags full of free books.|
These extreme reactions continued at BEA, leaving me baffled at first, overwhelmed, then charmed and grateful at once. By the second day on the exhibition floor, I began to take a few faltering strokes. I found space to think and even to be inspired in a few of the educational sessions, and I began meeting people within the book industry, talking, exchanging cards. Once conversations began to open up, I began to see inside the work that was going on before my eyes. Though I had much to learn, I was no longer an outsider.
As Booksmith recently expanded our travel section, the session that most interested me at BEA was a panel of travel publishers talking about recent trends and changes in the travel industry. Yes, people are still traveling post 9/11 and economic crisis, but their habits and tastes and itineraries are constantly shifting, as are the sources of information travelers turn to when faced with an unknown destination. This was an interesting conversation to listen in on as a bookseller trying to find the perfect guidebook for each unique traveler to visit the Globe Corner at Brookline Booksmith, and also as a traveler myself who was at that very moment trying to be at home in a city she felt somewhat intimidated by.
|On the exhibition floor.|
The title of another session I attended intrigued me: “Discovery, Recommendation, Serendipity.” The panel discussed the role of serendipity in getting the perfect book into a reader’s hands and how to create a context for these magical moments. Might it be possible, if not to do the work of serendipity itself, to at least do the work that might create a space—physical or virtual—in which these moments between a reader and a text, might occur. After all, wasn’t it in the service such moments as these that we were all gathered at the convention, “the halapalooza of reading quietly in a room by yourself,” as Colbert put it? Most of the discussion surrounded the tools we have to create such contexts, such as blogs and websites, which can be used to reveal the inter-connectivity of stories and make apparent the threads of culture that make up those stories, in the hope that one of these threads might cross with, connect to, coincide with, a reader’s life experience–thus creating a serendipitous and meaningful moment.
|Boy practicing violin on the street in my neighborhood.|
Whenever I visit NYC I always end up, on my last day in the city, seated on the banks of the Hudson with my back to the skyline, staring out into open space, absorbing it, if at all possible. Perhaps it’s the Midwest in me, longing for horizons. For while I have learned to love the city, I have also discovered its pace: sprint and recover, sprint and recover. This was the strategy my Iowa high school basketball coach once instilled in me, and the mantra I found myself repeating under my breath whenever overwhelmed by the crowds. And while I can’t say I prefer the pace to the slow laid back swagger of the West Coast, almost lackadaisical in comparison, or to the industrious steady tread of the Midwest, or to the unceasing marathon that is Boston, I find that somehow it works—I lose my breath but always find it again, I sink, but then—buoyed up by some unlooked for thrill or serendipitous moment—I float.