June 12, 2008
Trolling between the lines: Collecting titles at Publishers’ BookExpo
(Page 2 - Previous Page)When I looked up to see the name of his booth, Somogyi, I had to stop.
Eva Somogyi was my mother's stage name in Budapest, so I turned to Neumann and asked point blank: Hungarian or French? The answer, not surprisingly, was both -- the original founder, Somogyi, was of Hungarian parentage, but the publishing house is French. Somogyi turns out to be one of the largest publishers of museum exhibition catalogs in France.
Upon learning that my column appears in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Neumann immediately directed my attention to two of his English-language books. One of them is "Human Expressionism: The Human Figure and the Jewish Experience," the companion book to an exhibition this spring at the Musee Tavet-Delacour in Pontoise, a suburb of Paris. The book illustrates a fantastic and very thought-provoking exhibition featuring works by Soutine, Modigliani, Pissaro, Mane-Katz, Lasar Segall, Kitaj and Serge Strosberg, with a wonderful essay by Eliane Strosberg.
Neumann also showed me a book of the death camp drawings of Shelomo Selinger -- really remarkable, haunting work that deserves an American exhibition (Skirball people, are you listening?).
Speaking of art, but on a definitely lighter note, I was happy to run into the folks from BukAmerica -- Gary Kornblau and Lisa Lyons, whose Hollywood-based publishing house creates $1.49 pamphlets that run the gamut from reprints to original works, from a translation of Baudelaire, to the U.S. Constitution, from Ruth Reichl's "The Queen of Mold" to Richard Grossman's "Glossary of Every Humorous Word in the English Language." (Example: "agnify: to dress up as a sheep.")
Also from the local scene was Ammo, an L.A.-based publisher started by Steve Crist, who does very hip books like "Gonzo," about Hunter Thompson, and a series of books by the designer Todd Oldham, including one about John Waters with an essay by Cindy Sherman.
And if you like local, there's Angel City Press, where Paddy Calisto continues to publish fine volumes on Los Angeles' history and culture. I even met Gidget herself, Kathy Zuckerman, at the Santa Monica Press booth, where she and Dominic Priore were signing posters for "Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film and Fashion from the Bohemian Surf Boom," available in September.
Children's books occupied a fair amount of real estate at BookExpo. One title that particularly appealed to me was "My Name is Gabito (Me Llamo Gabito") an English- and Spanish-language children's book about the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown, who asked me, "And how many Latina Jews do you know?" (More than you think, mi amiga).
And as long as we are taking a walk on the Semitic side of the street, I was pleased to stumble on Lerner Publishing Group. It recently acquired Kar-Ben Publishing, "a growing Jewish library for children," which includes everything from Yale Strom's first children's book, "The Wedding That Saved a Town," to biographies, books about Israel, books about Jewish holidays and books about families and friends that encompass many religions.
Meanwhile, over at Matzoh Ball Books (that is their name!), Anne-Marie Baila Asner has just published "Klutzy Boy" (prior titles include "Kvetchy Boy," "Schmutzy Girl," "Noshy Boy" and "Schluffy Girl"). Let the imagination run wild.
Now, if having your child learn a foreign language grabs you, Slangman Publishing has a series for ages 3 and up, where familiar fairy tales, such as "Cinderella," are retold with foreign words to build up a child's vocabulary in a foreign language (there's an audio CD included, as well). Languages include Chinese, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian and Japanese.
Perhaps this is a good time to talk about "Mo's Nose." My daughter's homework folder has recently been covered with stickers about a dog named Mo. I now know why.
Turns out one of my daughter's classmates is the son of Margaret Hyde, the author of children's books such as "Dreadilocks and the Three Slugs" and the "Great Art for Kids" series ("Picasso for Kids," "Matisse for Kids"). Hyde has now launched "Mo's Nose," a series of books for children about a dog named Mo and how although he doesn't see in color, he can smell colors. The books, illustrated by Amanda Giacomini, have an innovative, safe, nontoxic scratch-and-sniff feature.
"Mo Smells Red," the first book in the series, has Mo smelling strawberries, roses and love itself. Cute in the extreme. A portion of the proceeds from the books go to help rescue animals find homes. Mo is going to be a star. Be ready for the appearance of Mo T-shirts in your children's lives.
Graphic novels were another big trend at BookExpo. As I learned, graphic novels are often neither graphic nor novel -- they are adult versions of what we used to call comic books. NBM books was at the convention, along with local author David Seidman, who told me that Los Angeles has become fertile ground for the graphic novel, thanks to the abundance of animators and writers raised on comic books.
These days, comics range from humorous work to art of fantasy and the imagination, from children's comics to illustrated renderings of Proust and Kafka, from political cartooning to subversive alternative lit, from goth to Japanese manga.
Some of the most interesting books these days are being published by university presses, such as the university presses of Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan, Mississippi, Chicago, MIT, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, which publish everything from the hyperlocal, to the serious academic, to the just plain fun from all over the country. As just one example, Yale University is doing a series called American icons with titles such as Joseph Epstein writing about Fred Astaire.
BookExpo, however, was not just about free books. There were also speeches and panels (about books). The New York Times' Thomas Friedman spoke about how "green is the new red, white and blue," which not coincidentally is the title of Friedman's next book. There were author breakfasts with Philippa Gregory, Alec Baldwin, Chris Buckley and Magic Johnson.