introducing readers to writers since 1995

June 05, 2005

N.M. Kelby's Further BookExpo Adventures

by Ron Hogan

The second installment of N. M. Kelby's dispatches, covering the exhibition by day and the parties by night...

DAY TWO: On the second day of BEA my new loves gave to me:

One plastic squeaking tugboat.
One lollypop wrapped in a condom.
Two ESPN poker decks.
One Statue of Liberty crown.
Six useful book bags.
Two yoga t-shirts.
Forty-eight advance readers' copies.
Forty-eight business cards from pleasant publicists.
One fountain pen with built-in lava lamp technology.

And a fat yellow ceramic pig bank.

Free. 'Free' has to be the most frightening word in America when you have 100,000 people, a city of people, crammed into one place and needing to use the bathroom and/or eat but they won't because there is free stuff everywhere and they don't want to miss it.

Free. Nothing is ever free. Each rhinestone crown that you are given by the people who are publishing a book about beauty queens brings with it a cost. But, hey, I look good in a tiara. And it is the perfect fashion accessory--just ask Queen Elizabeth. So, I'm keeping it. I'll worry about my mortal soul later.

The floor of the Jacob Javits Center is packed. I have never been in such human gridlock in my entire life. Even though the aisles are wide, and should accommodate a healthy flow of traffic, you can't move. People are packed tight as ants. They are crawling over every inch. They are pushing their way in--quietly, politely (they are readers after all)--towards the free books. They are swarming.

The crowd is packed so tight, I can hardly breathe. I think about being crushed to death; how crowds can press the air out of your lungs--and I am happy. After all, you have to die anyway. It seems noble to be crushed by a crowd of readers who are willing to kill for the chance to find a beautiful book, a book that somehow elevates, or enlightens, or entertains... or, at the very least, a book that has pictures of naked women in them.

There are actually lots of those. The most notably naked woman of them all is Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City fame, and her book's called Sexual Intelligence. She is kittenishly sprawled across the cover of it. She's two years older than me. She looks great. God bless her. It's a tough way to sell a book, but somebody's got to do it.

Luckily, it's not Jackie Mason.

What I find the most interesting about this is that this is her second sex book. According to, Sexual Intelligence has 144 pages. Her first book also had 144 pages. 288 pages about sex.

That's a lot of talking. I'm figuring that with all that talking, there's not much room for anything else. Poor Ms. Cattrall. The sacrifices writers make are amazing.

Anyway, Ms. Cattarall's cover brings up an interesting question--should a writer be willing to be naked to sell books? So, I asked Don Myers, the senior publicist for the Oxford English Dictionary, what he thought. "Sure," he said. "I'd do it."

Suddenly, I imagined this sly walrus of a man poising kittenish, in a rather hairy way, across the cover of the venerated OED. Hmm, I think, this naked thing could have limited marketing appeal.

Still, I do believe that a writer is always naked. You have to be. To write well, there should be no artifice, or posing. Style should be a product of intent. When you face the page, you make a promise to be as truthful as you can.

And nothing, not even the life-sized poster of Ms. Cattrall, is more naked than the truth.

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