Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Expo America 2011: Perverts Like Books

At BEA today, I'm enjoying myself at the Steidl booth when I see a white-bearded, pear-shaped man in his fifties.  He's wearing an author's badge, which doesn't make him one. 

Apparently, Santa's pervert brother doesn't know how to use the internet to find soft core porn, because he's leafing through the coffee table books, stopping on pages with topless or nude women, and snapping pictures.  Not surreptitiiously, not digitally or on a cell phone, but with a Nikon that has a fucking zoom lense.  He's not in any hurry, either.  He doesn't look a bit self-conscious or guilty.

I can't believe what I'm seeing.  A woman standing next to me stares, jaw dropped, open book forgotten in her hands, contemp and disgust crumpling her face.  With a camera that nice, he clearly can afford internet access.  He could be at home typing "nude women" into a Google image search, but no - he wants to share this behavior with us.

I can't shake a vague feeling of guilt, like both of us having dicks makes me an accomplice.  Before anyone can assume my presence indicates approval of his actions, I take the coward's way out and bail.

A short time later I overhear this conversation between a twenty-something, lovely sales rep and a different guy, also in his fifties, also bearded, also shaped like a pear.

Customer Service Rep: Are you a bookseller?  Or a librarian?

Bearded Pear-Shaped Perv: I'm an author.
(Aaron's Silent Judgment: Yeah, right.)
CSR: What do you write?

BPSP: Whatever I get paid to write. 
[He laughs like he's the funniest thing on two feet; she maintains her customer service smile.]
CSR: Like what?
BPSP: Mostly non-fiction, travel narratives, that kind of thing.  Why do it if you're not getting paid for it, am I right?
CSR: Sure.

BPSP:  I've found that going into a bookstore and seeing your book on the shelf is better than sex.
At this point, he's standing very close to the rep.  His voice is still pitched normally, like he's being jovial.  Really, he's fucking with her.  His eye-contact burns.  He's trying to see how much she'll put up with, and he's enjoying her discomfort.

After a very pregnant pause, she says, "I don't know about that."  And he says, "The first time, the first time."  She walks him around the booth and shows off her publisher's books.  He laughs at his own jokes, stands a little too close, and stares at her a little too intently.  He wears a wolf's grin the whole time.

I probably don't need to tell you this, but after working eleven years in the book business, the last seven as a buyer, I've never heard of this "author."

I would like to slap both of these guys.  Their existence reinforces the stereotype that readers only love books because they are unable to function within normal social parameters.  Their actions also create a hostile environment for the women around them, and the men who give a shit.  Really, they're making it tougher for me to be me.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive; it could have been worse.  I could have seen this guy:


  1. Sounds like you should have come over all 'Conan the Librarian' on their asses. I would have shared your frustration with them.

    Idiots are everywhere!

  2. Trouble is, I want to be all clever and righteous in the moment but all that leaps to mind is, "What the fuck?"

    A good broadsword to the head might be just the thing.