Book Expo America is a living remnant from a time when bookstores equaled thousands of points of vibrant lights, co-mingled with several large bookstore franchises and large department store book divisions, which were serviced by more than 1000 independent book publishers with ante-Twentieth Century bloodlines. Thousands of retail managers would congregate for nearly a week to see in person what would soon be available for their book hungry customers. Each publisher's booth, whether big or small, was a unique opportunity to be fascinated by fresh concepts and stories. Big and small orders were written on site and fulfilled over the following months. Professional book purveyors and retailers from every American city and crevice would relish their annual reunions with a passion only surpassed by Revival Meetings. I'm just old enough to have witnessed the last hurrah followed by a forced march to a new world.
June 2012, Javits Center NYC, BEA, was more mandate than pleasure, like a visit to the dentist. For sure, many were there and they made sure it mattered for themselves and the business they're in. It can't be said that money was wasted. None of us are ready to abandon our humanity to cold clicking into a babbling ether that filters our souls. Far fewer of us are needed and far less of a crucial nature needs to be done, because it could all be done otherwise, but showing up is a quiet defiance against the inevitable.
And so we there again to show the flags, which are simply emblems of our humanity, and that felt good. We could forget, assuming some of us even know, that the largest slices of the assets we service are mere fragments of generic $zillion pension and capital funds. They barely see us and we don't even know where to look. But we show up and do what we love and sustain ourselves along the way, and the reader is fed. There is an efficiency to where we've gone enabled by the ability to concentrate everything into the head of a pin, and still make the world spin.
The good news is the old news that only we, the spawn of a G-d, can create what's not yet anywhere that's known, including the seeds of our own demise. All the entertainment and wisdom comes from the hearts and minds of the humans. We can't be stopped without wanting each other again. Trains can run quite well without any of our interventions, but only we can see and describe the scenery. Why should there even be a train without that?
Our world may feel controlled, but it never really is if we don't let it, and that's what I took home from this year's BEA.
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