The Book Guy
by Eddie Gamarra
I’ve always been a reader. As a kid, I preferred to bury my face in an anthology of fairy tales over playing sports with the guys on the block. Books, before movies, were my sanctuary, my oasis, my home. As a literary manager, I am fortunate to work with many publishers, book agents, authors and illustrators, particularly in the children’s book business.
Even though I don’t have kids, my office overflows with signed first editions of beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated novels and picture books. When the dark side of Hollywood attempts to drag me down, I have salvation at my fingertips in the form of the printed page. I’m a lucky guy.
When I moved to L.A. ten years ago, I had a very difficult time choosing which books to bring across the country. Over the course of my life as a reader and as a grad student I had accumulated thousands of titles. Shipping costs and limited space prevented me from bringing everything I had in my library. I spent two torturous nights going through and picking what would stay behind and what would accompany me as I fulfilled my Manifest Destiny. I opted for a select group of favorite novels and what I considered the essentials: books about psychoanalysis, mythology and film. In total, it all amounted to a heartbreakingly small single bookshelf’s worth of titles.
When I first came to L.A. I only knew a handful of folks and I used to host cocktail parties at my Larchmont studio to network. Every few months 20 new people would come by as I expanded my community. One night I was flying back from N.Y. to L.A. and sat next to a guy who was asleep. He looked very familiar but I couldn’t recall a name and I didn’t want to bug him.
As we departed the plane he too recognized me and we began the “I Know You” ritual. We asked each other about schools we’d attended, cities we’d lived in, jobs we’d held, anything that would trigger the recollection. Suddenly the light bulb flashed over his head.
“You’re the book guy,” he exclaimed. “Huh,” I replied. “You’re the guy with all those books! I was at your apartment once for drinks. Damn man, it was like a library in there.” Befuddled, I pressed him. “You mean the one bookshelf that I have?” “Yeah, that was crazy. Like a library.” We parted ways and waved goodbye. The Book Guy. So be it.
Over the years, I have struggled with living in L.A. and working in an industry where half of all Best Pictures are based off of books, and yet it feels like most execs barely even fully read the coverage. Script adaptations often come in bearing little to no resemblance to the source material. One wonders, does anyone actually read the book? I have reconciled with myself knowing that very often it is “the big idea” within the book or the “pre-aware” success of the brand/franchise/book or the marketability of the author that makes a title more attractive to our industry.
But what’s a reader to do when Los Angeles fails to make Amazon’s list of the top 20 Most Well Read Cities in America? Hell it didn’t even crack the top 55 cities in the Central Connecticut State College list of “America’s Most Literate Cities.”
Sure I go to Book Soup or Skylight when I can. My wife started a book club that lasted just a few weeks longer than a Kardashian marriage. I attend my friends’ signings as often as I can. And I love participating in the national conference of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, an organization dedicated to lovers of stories for young readers and readers who are young at heart.
Most importantly, I am grateful and blessed that I have a wife who was a former school teacher turned educational consultant. I often say, only half-jokingly, that she knows more about children’s publishing than I do and yet I’m the one that reps all these books!
In two weeks, we’ll be celebrating our three year wedding anniversary. And how are we spending it? She’ll be coming with me to the Book Expo of America of course. While I traipse around N.Y.C. meeting with book agents, sub-rights execs and editors, she’ll see old friends and family. Per usual, work will keep us apart, as it does for so many Hollywood couples.
But, for us, the real highlight will the night of May 29th, our actual anniversary, as we attend the ABFFE Children’s Book Art Silent Auction. It’s co-hosted by one of my clients Lauren Myracle, and my wife’s favorite author Jack Gantos. We’ll have a few hours to indulge in the incredible skill and amazing talent of truly inspiring artists and authors, some of whom I’m honored to call clients.
What could potentially be a boring work event, will probably be a real blast! It’s time like these when I have to declare my gratitude to have found someone who loves the printed word as much as I do, to have found my book lady.Tags: ABFFE Children's Book Art Silent Auction, Book collector, Book Expo of America, Books, Children's books, Eddie Gamarra, Hollywood, Jack Gantos, Katrina Knudson, Lauren Myracle, Literary agent, Making books into film, Marriage, Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators