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Book Expo '07: Must Do's in The Big Apple

abstract:As a member of the torchered, ahem privileged people who call themselves "bi-coastal," I get to hangout in New York regularly. It is the publishing capital of America and my job requires that I meet with industry people. With Book Expo America taking over the city next month, there will not be a single hotel vacancy. I thought it would be fun to share a few of the things I like to do there.


May 23, 2007

The Neighborhood

Spoiled residents of New York have all their purveyors and services within a few block radius of their apartment; the grocer, the dry goods store, the healthfood store, the wine store, the laundromat, and three to four cafes, bistros or restuarants per block. (Zagat lists 1,817 restaurants in NYC.) My first stop is to Citarella's food emporium for gourmet grocery staples and the best New York cheesecake in the country.

Catching Culture

Next is a cultural excursion--a gallery opening, a new exhibit or some theatre. I usually combine a rendez-vous for drinks with friends in the same area of town to avoid extra cabs.

The Richard Serra sculpture at the MOMA works for both. Serra's 40 year retrospective is massive and the installation process into the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden is entertainment itself. The pieces are surrounded by reflecting pools, garden and you can walk inside the labyrinth effect. The Modern Bar is casual and creatively lit. It has killer martinis and a great menu, but know that the designer washroom is co-ed, which makes a nip into the loo a bit of an adventure as you never know who you'll meet washing-up at the Philip Stark sinks?

I was lucky to get tickets to see Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy playing at the Music Box Theater (built by Irving Berlin in 1921) in "The Vertical Hour," by David Hare and directed by Sam Mendez. Julianne's part must have been atrocious to memorize, while Bill's easy rapore with the audience got him chuckles on every line, often at cross-purpose to the dialogue. Regardless it is a pleasure to see actors perform on stage with wonderful playwrites like Hare whose 35-year association with the National Theatre in London has presented thirteen of his plays with Broadway here in New York presenting ten. His next collaboration is on Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking." 

Recommended Reading: The Alchemy of Theatre - The Divine Science: Essays on Theatre and the Art of Collaboration (Applause Books), Edited by Robert Viagas with contributions from Edward Albee, Hal Prince and more than a dozen iconic peers.

The Capital of Publishing in America

If you think you can land in New York and just walk up to any of The Big Six publishing houses, you are in for a surprise. They all have security desks, electronic doors and magnetic cards to access elevators. You must have an appointment. Here is a picture of the lobby of Random House at 517 Madison Avenue. Visitors stop-in at the desk, their names are checked with a list of people with appointments. You have to show photo ID and look into a camera and say your name (who knows where that goes?) Then you are issued a magnetic day pass that works for the secondary glass door only on the floor you have clearance for. No one is going to get in with a book proposal or manuscript, or get out with an advance copy of Harry Potter VII, despite what they say in "The Devil Wears Prada".


Buy yourself a $20 metro card in the subway station and study the map. Manhattan is a grid. Downtown is at the bottom of Manhattan Island, and Uptown is north (Midtown is at Time Square 42nd St. The avenues run north to south, and streets run east to west. The main subway lines are on opposite sides of Central Park running all the length of Manhattan, and there is only one east-west subway line, so get accustomed to walking. New Yorkers are in better shape than you'd imagine because of the 4-6 blocks they have to walk from subway stop to destination several times a day.

Note on cabs. Hail the ones with the middle light on=available, no light=occupied, and two lights on either side of the top=off duty. Stand on the side of the street going the direction of your destination. Tips. Under $5 give them the change from a five dollar bill. Over that give them $1-2. Always order a town-car to the airport. It costs a flat $50 and the driver isn't a lunatic. If you're travelling light you can catch the subway to JFK for $8, but it takes an hour.


Many restaurants in NY do not take reservations and you simply have to show up, put your name on a list and spend an hour in the bar. If you can make a reservation, expect to book long in advance for week-end prime times.

Getting a table at a New York restaurant at short notice and without a prior reservation takes practice.  You must use what I call, the three T’s: timing, tone and tension.

First, you must arrive about fifteen minutes before the busy hour—let’s say between 7:30 and 8:30. You must proceed directly to the hostess, concierge or manager, (having discretely obtained their name earlier in the day by telephone) and say in a tone of urgent confidence, “So-and-so, I need your best table tonight for important guests, and it can’t be too late,” all the while looking them straight in the eye with complete gravitas. The combination of intimacy and urgency will immediately place the staff member on their toes.

If you had asked, “Have you got a table for me tonight, I have important guests?” they would have responded negatively, or put you down for “Rocky Horror Picture Show” seating times. This is not a question. You are stating a fact, a need. By using their name and saying that you need the best table and sooner rather than later, the hostess is likely to infer you are a regular at the restaurant. Regulars and locals get preference over out-of-towners and dreaded tourists.

It is essential to be polite and gracious, and speak with a firm, not loud or obnoxious, tone of voice. Above all—you must be well dressed. Who would dress otherwise on an important dinner date?  Sartorial taste in New York, the fashion, finance, literary and art capital of North America, must suit the particular establishment whose ramparts you are attempting to breach. Is it a chic up-town venue, a trendy SoHo hotspot, or a funky Chelsea lair? The clothes, hair and women’s handbags are your props in this pageant, so ensure everyone do their homework and prepare with a little pre-shopping and grooming. Don’t forget, New Yorkers dine six out of seven nights a week—you are going to get good at this!

Book Expo America 2007

Located at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, a behemoth structure that encompasses five city blocks from 34th to 39th on the shores of the Hudson River just east of the Garment District. BEA is the social networking and business meeting of the year. It will be packed with book publishers parading their big authors and latest books, book sellers and book buyers - librarians and all people who work with books.

The luncheons and author series are always sold out. This year the opening address will be given by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Dr. Alan Greenspan, will kick off BEA’s author events in a unique and special way by appearing as BEA’s Conference Keynote Speaker in the Special Events Hall at 5:15PM on Friday, June 1st.



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