NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU

Every year for work, I go to New York for Book Expo America, which is a little bit like SXSW for books. I would tell you that it’s a nerd’s delight (true), but BEA has also significantly upped its street cred in the last few years.  Today, for example, I’m going to see Patti Smith interview Neil Young on stage, and that is exciting.

(My husband says that there are two types of people in this world: Those who love Neil Young’s voice, and those who loathe it.  “Loathe” is a strong word, but I fear I fall in the latter camp, even though I adore everything else about the man: His man-living-alone-in-the-woods hair, his Americana-ness, his mentorship of Pearl Jam. If we ever had dinner together, Neil and I, I imagine us throwing back whiskeys and having a grand ol’ time, until the moment he lifts his scratched-up, beloved guitar and strums a little tune … prompting me to gently — but firmly — place a finger to his lips. “No singing,” I’d murmur. Just one more whiskey, Neil.”)

Anyway, my favorite part of BEA every year is this panel called “Editor’s Buzz.” Two hundred editors from all the big publishers apply for five seats on this panel, and get up there to tell a room full of industry types — book reviewers, film scouts, foreign rights reps and the like — why this book is amazing. It is in fact where I discovered The Night Circus last year.

Anyway, I got copies of all the books the editors touted at this year’s panel, and though they all sound incredible, there’s one I want to tell you about: Brain on Fire.

It is the story of a young, spunky reporter who moves to New York after college, finds a wonderful boyfriend, and gets hired by the New York Post. Everything is going great, until one day, little things start going wrong. First it’s mood swings at work. Then hallucinations.  She has her first seizure. Soon, she is having one every day.

Her boyfriend wakes up one night to see her eyes rolled back in her head, and blood foaming from her mouth.

She’s rushed to the hospital, and over the next few weeks, administered literally a million dollars’ worth of tests. Absolutely nothing is wrong.

Meanwhile, the reporter is slowly deteriorating into madness. She thinks her father is a murderer. She’s thrashing wildly. The doctors are preparing her family for the next step: Life in an institution.

Just as our young reporter’s life, at least one of wakeful sanity, is drawing to a close, a phenomenal doctor with experience in autoimmune disorders joins her team. He makes one extraordinarily lucky guess, and this guess saves our reporter’s life.

This autoimmune disorder, which was really only discovered in 2007, is now thought to be connected to schizophrenia and even aggressive forms of autism. Tests won’t detect it, because your brain is fine … but your immune system, which thinks your brain is a foreign agent, is attacking your brain.

The scariest part? The doctors now believe the reporter caught the disease from a sneeze on a New York subway.

And with that, I head out to the subway myself for Day 3 in New York.

Wish me very good luck, Reader.