Christian numerologists take note: the floor of the Anaheim Convention Center encompasses the equivalent of 7.77 football fields (or 350,000 square feet), including three halls, two enclosed outdoor eating areas, and half a dozen food vendors—and there are two floors above that. The industry that caters to evangelical Christian specialty stores—members of the CBA—managed to pack it to the rafters with almost 500 booths, some the size of small houses.

Given the great number of companies vying for the eyes of the several thousand CBA dealers, it also amounted to one of the greatest shows on earth. Publishers stopped just short of carpet-bombing you with products, and the pressroom was lined with 36 feet of table, always covered with promotional materials.

Book signings existed within an inverse Bizarro universe: Authors signed the books, gave them to you, and thanked you for expressing an interest—any interest. I walked away with six bags full of stuff, including 14 books (a low figure because of my hatred for lines), a dozen magazines, and countless catalogues, posters, and assorted knickknacks. When I got back to my office, a bidding war broke out over my Jews for Jesus shopping bag.

But just as guns don't kill people, products don't sell themselves. The sense of salesmanship on such a massive scale created a wonderful primordial capitalistic frisson that crackled through the air and encircled you like fins jutting out of the water. There was oneupmanship aplenty. One of the jovial Canon Press guys told me that their book on raising boys was "way better than [radio personality James] Dobson's." And, of course, the good old-fashioned naked grabs for attention. Plenty of ...

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