Printers Row Book Fair Part 2
06/09/2009 10:31 AM
My friend Marilyn noticed it first--as we were walking down Dearborn during the Printers Row Book Fair (I will never call it the Tribune Lit Fest or whatever) and listening to the relentless French music emanating out of Fountain Park (which she loved, by the way). “The atmosphere this time is just the way it was before the Tribune took over,” she said, pointing out that the fair was so relaxed, so simple, so non-corporate and down to earth and not so sterile (especially the port-a-potties) this year.
We started wondering why. Was it simply the drizzle? Were the cloying moisture and cool temperatures keeping people away--and keeping others who were there more relaxed and live and let live, like a Left Bank Saturday afternoon in Paris in the Springtime?
Our biggest speculation was that the Tribune was getting ready to dump the fair next year, possibly inching toward the idea of giving it back to the Near South Planning Board, who did it all the years when it was a true neighborhood-fest-meets-the-rest-of-the-book-world sort of thing. Maybe they were buttering up the Near South Planning Board--because they gave them two fabulous booth locations--one at Polk and Plymouth at one of the main entries to the fest--and a second one at Harrison and Dearborn, another busy entry, where they could interface with the public, entice people to take trolley tours of the neighborhood and buy a t-shirt, etc. In fact, in some ways, NSPB had a more solid presence than the Tribune this year, the blue Tribune banners on each booth notwithstanding.
Whatever it was, the 2009 fair had a great charm. People went to parties at their friends’ homes on Printers Row and Dearborn Park with more of a spring in their steps (I went to Pat Miller’s on Saturday afternoon and Nina Corwin’s on Saturday night), they stood in line to get authors’ signatures on bestselling books and chat them up a little. I got Molly O’Neill’s inscription on her “American Food Writing” and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s on “Olive Kitteridge.” And in the not such bestsellers category, I got Ulrich Danckers and Jane Meredith on their heavy coffee table book, “Early Chicago”--which goes up to 1835--and Elise Paschen’s--the poet and daughter of famous ballerina Maria Tallchief--on her latest collection, “Bestiary.
I also got six free tastes of wine from Jewel and two complimentary wine-carrying bags; a Lit Fest t-shirt for $2; another free red Book TV tote to add to my collection; and a taste of wild mushroom dip made by Illinois foragers who wrote a book about their favorite foraged fungus. I saw some cute cats and dogs who were up for adoption during the fair; got free brochures from University Center and C-Span and the Chicago Public Library (Summer Reads for Adults); a free issue of the Tribune’s June 3 Good Eating section; two community service and government guides from Alderman Fioretti’s booth; a drawing of Abraham Lincoln reading a book that is supposed to be colored by a child; and 16 free bookmarks, including one with the Braille alphabet that my friend and fellow South Looper Beth Finke--who is blind--was giving out at her memoir writing workshop.
I sure had fun running back and forth from home for two days: learning, getting, seeing and doing.