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Monday, June 6, 2011

Editor's Buzz Panel at Book Expo

The Editor's Buzz Panel books

My favorite panel at the Book Expo is the Editor's Buzz Panel. Six editors each present a book from their publishing house that they are proud of, and one that they hope will be a big seller.

Denise Roy, a senior editor at Dutton, presented the novel The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson. It is the story of a woman who loses her husband in an accident. She has been mom to her husband's young daughter, but the girl's birth mother comes forward after the funeral to claim her daughter. It is an exploration of the complex relationship between two moms, and it is not what it appears to be.

Roy identified so strongly with the book because she too lost her husband at a young age, and she understood these characters.

Kathy Pories of Algonquin Books (one of my favorite publishing houses) spoke about Naomi Benaron's Running the Rift. The novel won the Bellwether Prize, chosen by author Barbara Kingsolver. Pories states that in her 15 years as a editor, she has never been so moved by a book as she was by this one.

It tells the story of a young Rwandan boy who wished to compete in the Olympics as a runner. Rwanda was undergoing the tragic genocide at this time, and this novel "coveys the beauty and tragedy" of this country. The young runner does not want to get involved in the Tutsi/Hutu conflict, he only wants to run, and this novel "forces us to recognize the repercussions of being apolitical".

Michael Pietsch from Little, Brown & Company had the book that most intrigued me, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. He had me at "it's the story of a catcher on a college baseball team". (My younger son caught since the age of eight.)

It's more than just a 'baseball novel' though. It's a novel about youth, of striving for perfection, of figuring out who you are, who you will become. Peach said he had "aching tenderness for these people". It has "two love stories, a death, a championship season- who could ask for more?" Not me.

 Popular author James Patterson said that is reminded him of The World According to Garp, which is one of my all-time favorite novels. This one moved to the top of my TBR list immediately.

Alaine Salierno Mason of W.W. Norton spoke about Diana Abu-Jaber's Birds of Paradise. She worked on Abu-Jaber's first novel, Arabian Jazz, and she believes that this will be her breakout book.

Set in Miami it's about "family, food and real estate- the three most important things in life." She says it is "deep and sophisticated", and speaks to "youthful passion and rebellion versus middle-aged wisdom".  Avis is a pastry chef whose thirteen-year-old daughter ran away five years ago. It's the story of how a family is lost to each other and must find each other again.

Mason states that this book is "a new level of literary achievement, so rich with complexity you can chew on it after reading."

Jenna Johnson from Harcourt Mifflin Houghton brought debut novelist Justin Torres we the animals, a slim story of three brothers and "the push, pull and comfort of each other". It forces us to "reconcile who we are with who our family wants us to be". It's "filled with energy, beauty and fireworks" and "this book creates hardcore fans."

She says that it is filled with original imagery and overcomes you. I met Torres at BEA when he was signing books, and he was just the most delightful person. He had a big smile for everyone, and seemed so thrilled to be there. He is a very genuine person.

The last book was from Alison Callahan of Doubleday, and it was Erin Morgenstern's novel The Night Circus.  Callahan got the manuscript and read it in five hours in the office cafeteria. It is set in the 19th century, where a magical circus pops up in a city for one day, then moves on to the next city.

There is a duel between two magicians, a game that only ends when one of the magicians dies. Celia and Marco find themselves pitted against each other, and falling in love at the same time. Callahan said that this is "like reading a book in 3-D, with pop-in visuals where you can smell the scents". It is a "feast for the senses in every way".

She says it is a big love story, like The Time Traveler's Wife. I can tell you that the buzz on this book at BEA reminded me of last year's Room by Emma Donoghue. Everyone wanted this ARC, and the line for her signing had hundreds of people in it, snaking all around the Javits Center. I spoke with one man who said that this was the most exciting, incredible book he's ever read.  I also liked the marketing of this book- Doubleday had people dressed in black and red, handing out bags of popcorn; it made an impression.

So to recap, the six books from the Editor's Buzz Panel in the order in which I want to read them:
1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
3. Birds of Paradise  by Diana Abu-Jaber
4. The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson
5. Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
6. we the animals  by Justin Torrres

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