By September 15, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Two Major Discoveries, My Cat, and the Portland Tradeshow

I’m secretly packing my suitcase in the spare room, so my cat doesn’t see it. I’ve learned from bitter experience. He knows exactly what the suitcase means. Every year I travel down to Portland for the annual Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association tradeshow, for three days of sampling the autumn titles of all the major publishers, dining with authors and reps, staying in a hotel room, and leaving Buddy to the kindness of friends stopping by twice a day to give him a scoop of food. When Buddy sees my suitcase being packed, he immediately climbs into it and blatantly, aggressively pees on it. I now pack behind closed doors, waiting to fold my clothes until my cat is patrolling the yard looking for any careless rodent activity.

Okay, I’m going to miss him. It’s what I hate about the book tradeshow every year, being away from the constant humor and affectionate demands of my feline, and when I come back there will be a probationary period during which I’m only tolerated, culminating in a moment when he startles me with a swat. I know it’s coming. It comes every year. I make sure he doesn’t come near my eyes. Still, even though he’s a tyrant, I’ll miss him, and as soon as the final breakfast is over on Wednesday morning, we’re going to be in that car heading home, with the car trunk stuffed full of book bags bulging with new books.

Speaking of new books, I’ve stumbled on two delights, both by women.

American Widow  I’ve just finished reading a compelling new graphic memoir this afternoon, Alissa Torres’ heartbreaking American Widow. It’s her story of marrying a Colombian boy whose green card was running out, of their happy year together culminating in her pregnancy when he finally starts his new job on September 10, 2001 at the World Trade Center.

American Widow is a non-linear emotional tour de force, never capitalizing on its subject matter, more concerned with the broken promises of the Red Cross and the barrage of often callous bureaucratic aid for widows and survivors. With an boldly graphic, frame-shattering style of artwork by Sungyoon Choi, her story is about the nightmare engulfing 9/11 survivors in the aftermath of the tragedy, learning how to negotiate the strings of red tape and broken governmental promises while dealing with Eddie’s absence. Twice real photos of Eddie Torres are inserted into the text. It’s a real cry from the heart. I read the entire thing in a single sitting.

Nada  Currently I’m a third of the way through a Spanish classic written in 1945 by Carmen LaForet called Nada, recently translated by Edith Grossman and released as a Modern Library paperback in February. As it happened, a university employee came into our campus bookstore asking for a copy of Nada to read for her book club, and just seeing the handsome cover broke my last resistance – it reads in a thrillingly modern style, as young Andrea tells her story of going to live with relatives in Barcelona while attending the university. Like Andrea, the reader walks into a house full of raging tempers and secrets, brother against brother, screaming matches and throwing chairs. Along with Andrea, the reader gathers a clue here, a clue there, as to what’s really going on, what lingers from the terrors and crimes of the Spanish Civil War, who fought on which side. I have no idea where this fascinating novel is going.

That’s the book I’m bringing with me to PNBA tomorrow morning, when somehow I’m going to be packed and ready to go when Brad drives up at 8 a.m. We’ll check into our Portland hotel room tomorrow, talk to publishers’ reps and other booksellers. All day Tuesday will be the tradeshow, a convention room filled with tables piled with copies of the new fall line-ups in books, far more than any sane man can carry. I only take ones I’m sure I’ll read, and that usually involves a shoulder-bag and a book-bag full.

I’ll let you know what I find. Here’s hoping I’m about to discover some real gems that will bring book lovers genuine joy.

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About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

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