BEA Kicks Off with Colbert, Diaz, Kingsolver and Nesbo

Book Expo America kicked off Tuesday morning's author breakfast with attendees lined up early to enter and offered the classic mix of humor, appreciation and creative inspiration. In a new twist, BEA is live streaming the marquee convention events, and the stream actually worked. (We have the player on the home page, and you can find it on many other trade sites, as well as BEA's own site.)

Emcee Stephen Colbert was in classic form, setting the stage for "three of the world's best authors of books other than mine." Of his own forthcoming book AMERICA AGAIN: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't, Colbert noted that "following the success of The Avengers, I wanted my new book to be 3D.... The pages turn right at you." He added, "I'm not kidding," and blads given out at the breakfast did include 3D classses and boasted pages in 3-D High Def, to "experience depthiness."

Introducing the first author, Junot Diaz, Colbert noted how it "must have been exciting to the see the Pulitzer's Prize van pull up to your house, with the balloons and the check."

Diaz expressed his genuine admiration for the role booksellers play in our lives: "You're the capillary strength of our democratic society. It's that passing of books...the simple, humble mundane labor of giving books to people that in some ways nourishes what we call our American democracy, and it's not a small debt we owe."

He was followed by Barbara Kingsolver, who acknowledged that "everything about books is changing very fast. It used to be when I wrote a book I knew exactly where it would end up--on a between Stephen King and Maxine Hong Kingston." Now, "it might end up on a shelf, or on a phone, or in some teeny tiny form on a device in between Angry Birds and Whack-a-Mole. I don't know what I'm doing in there."

While "we are all jockeying for the attention of the reader, who we know call the consumer, trying to wrestle a little attention away from Angry Birds," Kingsolver acknowledged that it has always been the case. "The literary reader is a small but probably stable demographic. We have our place. We absorb and pass on information in a way that endures.... The only thing that will resonate with the reader is those things that will stay true forever."

Closing author Jo Nesbo presented an entertaining tour of all the things he did before becoming an international bestselling novelist, from soccer player to mediocre rock guitarist to stock broker and beyond. He told the capacity crowd "you guys are so good at speaking English" and remarked about "the best part of reading my own books in English; there are long words in there that I don't understand and it even makes me proud: I wrote that word."