This is the first SBL conference in a long time that doesn't feel 'magisterial'. It feels small(er), like the conferences I used to go to twenty years ago. The book exhibit is disappointing. It is packed into two rooms - small exhibit halls, and it looks to me like there are less booths and less books in those booths. In one way it was nice not running around a big convention center since the conference is based in two hotels across the street from each other. But the flip side is that things are cramped. And I really miss my AAR friends who I haven't seen now for two years.
The sessions have been going well, although many presenters decided not to come, leaving paper spots and panels vacated. Our working group on Friday lost its afternoon session because of cancellations. The EJCM book review session on Saturday was missing a reviewer, although his paper was read, and one of the coauthors, although his response was read. The James and Q session was missing half its panel, although I heard it was awesome (sorry I missed it). The Moshe Idel session suffered because Idel didn't turn up and one of the reviewers on the panel, so I feel bad for Francis' group on Religious Experience which had put that together. One of the panelists for Elaine Pagel's celebration of the Gnostic Gospels session that I was on couldn't come at the last minute. And these are just the groups I attended or heard about. It is the oddest year in terms of attendance that I have ever witnessed. Let's put it this way. I have been attending SBL for about twenty years now, and I can count on one hand the number of cancellations of papers I can recall. Until this year!
So I don't know what is happening, but I sure hope it is not a trend. And the sooner that we can join back up with AAR the better. And when I say this, I mean REALLY join back up with them.
And a note about food. I am sick of the same menu which includes shrimp, crawfish, catfish, oysters, in all versions and renditions everywhere. And since I am allergic to all these, my one and only menu choice has been steak. It was nice at lunch today to get the breakfast buffet where at least I could get an egg and some fruit.