Fuse #8

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I Went To a Marvelous Party

I received the following anonymous comment this week:
Am I the only person who raises her eyebrows at the money these big publishers throw around? Am I the only person who thought that the Lemony Snicket thing was a huge waste of money? Can't a presentation be professional and appealing (and user-friendly) without overt extravagance? Shouldn't a great book or a great list stand on its own?
It's all in how you look at it. Allow me to point out, however, that the Snicket party was not, is not, and never will be the norm. This was a once-in-a-lifetime blowout event of publisher extravagance that likes of which I shall never see again. But see it I did and now you can too.

The full experience was already written here, so I'll just give you a walking tour of the space.

Okay, so you come in and this is the kind of place you find yourself in.

Kinda cool. You go up the first flight of stairs and see that someone has been given a liberal amount of freedom with that oval mirror in the hallway.

It doesn't take much to create the VFD eye symbol, it seems. And really, it wasn't until I uploaded these pictures that I noticed that this involved magic market at all. Live and learn.

This next little set-up worked on a number of levels. Give it a long look.

The casual passerby could be forgiven for thinking that the face above these framed portraits was their own. At first it looks like a very dirty mirror. Then, as you lean in closer, you see that either you have grown a moustache or that's a painting you're examining so closely.

You have already seen the bathroom/Reptile Room, but here are some action shots.

My husband actually has to physically remove himself from the room when that second picture comes up. He has a snakes in bathrooms fear. No, really. He does.

I found this cutie tucked away one of the space's many hidden rooms.

And then we get to the ridiculous overabundance of delicious food. See the round thing sitting in the center of the table below?

Do you know what that is? I'll give you three guesses. Soup? No. A gigantic melon the size of a punchbowl? No. Ice cream? No no no. It's cheese. The largest parmesan cheese in the world. You basically walk up to it, grab a knife, hack off a chunk, and devour it. And that guy in white behind it? Slicing mozarella as we speak. Turn around and you had the macaroni and cheese and pot pie . . .

. . . albeit in teeny tiny ramekins. So that was that. I did not get a photo of Mr. Handler since it seemed rather silly. No one else, for the record, was taking any photographs and I felt a bit gauche. Gauche and librarianish. Hence I left and attended the official release of the book at Barnes and Noble. My view of Mr. Handler at the previous party had been from a 2 foot to 3 foot distance. My view of him at Union Square?

He's the one on the left with the accordian. Stephen Merritt is on the right singing the song Shipwrecked. Yes, I really was that far away. On the down side, not the best view. On the upside, I saw these kids below me.

Do you see what they're doing? By the yellow wristbands you can tell that somebody stood in line at 10 in the morning (for a 4:00 signing) so that they'd get a closer view of Mr. Handler when he signed books. Until that happy time occurred, however, they were perfectly content to sit on the floor painting this elaborate picture of a book entitled, "Violet's Diary" instead. He could sing all he wanted at the front of the room. They were having none of it until they finished the last touches on this, his present. Note the nice use of VFD on the left photograph. A pleasant end to a remarkable experience.


At 1:10 AM , Blogger Lisa Yee said...

Wow, how fun!!!

At 11:56 AM , Anonymous Robin Brande said...

I had a completely different reaction to the description of that party than anonymous did. It made me SO HAPPY.

First of all, I figure Daniel Handler probably came in for some teasing when he was a kid. He was probably a little weird. And so
seeing him find such success by holding on to his quirkiness and using it to delight kids and grownups alike makes me so happy for him and for all of us.

I read someone else's lengthy description of the B&N event, and it made me laugh out loud. The accordion playing, the sing-along, the outrageous things he said--all proof that you can grow up to be yourself. And I love that he took time with each person who brought him a book to sign. He really set the standard for how joyous and entertaining a book event can be.

Waste of money? Ha! I can think of a lot of worse things for a company to spend money on than making a room full of a thousand people or more laugh for hours on end. I wish more companies would spend their money that way.

And I wish more kids would feel safe growing up to be exactly who they are. Who knows what we miss out on every time another child feels pressured to conform?

At 12:27 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Who told you about the B&N event? They didn't happen to blog about it (she said, desperately looking for future posts), did they?

At 12:33 PM , Anonymous e.fama said...

I don't think Daniel Handler was a misfit who overcame teasing. He seems to have been a success all of his life, privileged, and well-loved:

1) He grew up in San Francisco in the '70s and '80s, where (and when) weird was celebrated.
2) His mother was the dean of City College of San Francisco, so he had a progressive, educated household.
3) Just look at this YouTube footage of his graduation speech, and tell me he's not loved by his classmates:

That's not to say he doesn't deserve success, of course.

Maybe the real question is much deeper: should book publishers distribute their marketing money differently? The trend seems to be to pour a lot of cash into the heavy-hitters. Maybe it makes sense, if those heavy-hitters subsidize the less well-known works on the list. But I'd like to hear someone make that argument with numbers before I believe it.

It takes a lot of money to groom several quality books into being classics, I would guess. But in today's market, profits come from one or two books per publishing house, so they promote the heck out of the few. Does that mean that books that could be classics are going out of print rather than getting their chance?

I'm not even remotely an expert on this subject. I'm just wondering.

At 2:13 PM , Anonymous Robin Brande said...

Fuse #8, I read about the B&N party in last week's Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf. Please don't let it stop you from telling us more. We party vicariously.

At 2:39 PM , Anonymous Robin Brande said...

e.fama, I just watched the graduation speech (thanks for posting that link), and you're right: he was clearly beloved.

So I take back everything I said. Mostly. Except the part about being so happy. And the part about how I'm glad the publisher spent money that way. And the part about how I hope quirky kids grow up to be goofy adults.

But otherwise, I'm with you.

At 10:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, but pre-lemony snicket, Daniel Handler had done one (or was it two?) midlist adult novels that did not set the world on fire. He was not a known entity in childrens books until Lemony Snicket #1, which was hyped quite well because it was well written and much more importantly, it had a GREAT HOOK. The mysterious author, the dark humor, the mocking of standard practices....

then--it hit big. each book hit bigger. therefore, they were able to place more marketing time and money toward a hit to help turn it into a runaway hit.

him going on the road and doing readings and visits doesn't hurt either.


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