Joyce Hinnefeld


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Last Book Show

I started this post very early on Saturday morning, Oct. 4, when I sat down and wrote the following:

I’m in Oakland right now, in my room at the Marriott, looking out the window at San Francisco Bay as the sky gradually starts to lighten. It’s 6:15 AM, and I’ve been up for a while now; I’m still on Eastern Standard Time.

I’m here for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association conference; I’ll meet booksellers throughout the day today and at a reception this evening, and tomorrow I’ll drive up to Book Passage in Corte Madera (in Marin County), to sign copies of In Hovering Flight for Book Passage’s First Editions Club. I’m looking out the window now and trying not to get nervous about navigating those multiple, intertwining freeways.

Last night I had dinner with my editor at Unbridled Books, Fred Ramey. We talked about a lot of things, and it was great fun, but I keep thinking about a question Fred raised. Why, he asked, aren’t more American novelists writing about the here and now—our contemporary lives in this moment, the particular social and political backdrop that surrounds us now. We got to this, I think, by talking about the very strange phenomenon of airport security. We take off our shoes and belts. We put our little plastic baggies with our personal toiletry items on the conveyor. It’s weirdly invasive, and we all do it without making eye contact. Except with the man or woman on the other side of the screening device. Very important to smile and make eye contact there, when you hand over your boarding pass, so you don’t look at all questionable.

I’ve been traveling so much lately, and I’ve just started to find this fascinating, and to wonder: Are we going to look back on this at some point and think, Wasn’t that really strange? Or is this it, the way it’s going to be from now on? Will our kids go through their days fully expecting to be patted down several times a day, just as part of going about their business?

Then, a few flights later, I added the following:

The freeways weren’t too bad. Book Passage ( is a fantastic bookstore. I’m grateful to Mary Benham for helping me sign all those books—and also for her part in selecting In Hovering Flight for the store’s First Editions Club.

When I’d finished signing I met up with my friend Shae Irving; we had a lovely walk around Corte Madera, past Shae’s old elementary school, the park she used to play in, the apartment building where she lived until she was nine. We stopped so she could photograph a yellow-and-black road sign that’s apparently been up at the same spot in Corte Madera for a while now: “Changing Conditions Ahead.” You can say that again. (Shae: Please don’t forget to send me this photo.)

Sunday night I stayed at Shae’s place in Berkeley, where I’d never been before this brief visit but where I have decided, based on my breakfast at Café Fanny Monday morning, that I need to live. That evening I met up with two old college friends, Rafal Ofierski and J.D. Meadows, who both live in San Francisco, for a dinner spent catching up and ranting about American politics. Monday morning I was up early (I never really adjusted to Pacific time), so I drove up to Centennial Drive and looked down on a fog-enshrouded Berkeley; it looked like a gorgeous sea of clouds. I don’t see how people in the San Francisco Bay area get any work done; I’d spend all my time looking out the window if I lived there. Mountains and water everywhere!

NCIBA was interesting; at the reception/signing on Saturday night—similar to the one in Boston, at NEIBA a couple weeks ago—I chatted with booksellers from all over California. At the book exhibit I enjoyed meeting and talking with fellow Unbridled author John Addiego; I’m loving his novel The Islands of Divine Music, which is set in the Bay Area ( I should have done a bunch of grading on the flight home, but I kept picking up this wonderful novel instead.

So that’s it for Independent Booksellers’ Association meetings for me. I won’t miss airports and Marriotts, but suddenly I’m feeling a little sad that these trips are over. Now it’s on to some bookstore readings, first in my area and then a bit farther afield (see for the current list). To any and all booksellers I’ve met over the past few weeks who might be reading this: Thanks for your warm welcome. Thanks, too, to Steven Wallace and Fred Ramey for sending me.

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