As the afternoon wears on at Book Expo, the booths belonging to big houses are overheated and packed tight as long lines of fans wait patiently for Brad Meltzer, or Tom Perrotta, or Nelson DeMille, to sign their galleys. Perrotta’s line snakes all the way through the St. Martin’s booth and well into the booths beyond, as a crowd of mostly middle-aged women clutch much-coveted copies of Perrotta’s October book, The Abstinence Teacher, gossiping about the handsome author at the end of the line. (Not as handsome as the Prom King, Patrick Wilson, in the film of Perrotta's Little Children, but pretty handsome nonetheless.)
A few rows over, sweating, suit-clad Henry Holt author Rick Atkinson signs copies of the second volume of his epic history of the European campaign in World War II, The Day of Battle. His crowd, in the Henry Holt booth, is as different from Perotta’s as could be, heavy on graying, distinguished men wearing suits of their own. We’re pretty certain the book, coming in October, will be brilliant, and not just because we used to work for Atkinson’s agent; after all, Volume One won the Pulitzer.
In the Farrar, Strauss booth, cartoonist Adrian Tomine is packing up his things after a signing of his September graphic novel, Shortcomings, drawn from the last three issues of his genius comic book Optic Nerve. When we ask if we can take his picture, he says, “Can you frame me so you can see Julianne Moore in the background?” We can’t, quite, but there’s Moore, three booths over, hers the longest line of all winding its way through the convention hall. She’s signing copies of her children’s book in the Bloomsbury booth, and when we snap a picture, we also capture the handler sitting at her side frantically waving to us, saying, “No pictures!”
Luckily, we escape into the overheated crowd. A few rows over, Brigid Hughes, formerly the editor of the Paris Review, is telling former FSG editor Ethan Nosowsky about her new magazine, A Public Space, and its program at this year’s BAM Next Wave festival. Meanwhile, he’s telling her about his new home, arts foundation Creative Capital, for whom he’s establishing the organization’s first awards for writers. They both pause as a woman in a huge inflated balloon hat walks past, then continue their conversation.
The only oasis in the entire festival floor this afternoon is in the International Rights Center, where business theoretically is meant to be done. While a few hardy agents and scouts are still doggedly holding meetings, the red-carpeted private area, enclosed by high walls in the middle of the show floor, is cool and quiet compared to the rest of BEA. Someone’s serving beer, and business seems mostly over for the day.