The Book Fair is 26 years old
another one bites the dust
06/13/2010 11:55 PM
This year the book fair started rising on Wednesday, the earliest I’d ever seen the set up begin. And like last year, the cool cloudy weather made the fair seem more relaxed, more soothing--like a true neighborhood fest as opposed to an internationally recognized destination.
I collected a lot of bookmarks again, my favorites being the free ones from Columbia College with black tassles on them. My daughter Molly bought one from Columbia made out of bamboo. I gave a free one with a tassle to Pat Miller, whose party I went to Saturday late in the afternoon at her Franklin Building loft--where all my neighborhood pals were.
I got two free tote bags. One official one from the fest; and a red BookTV one like I always get--after visiting their luxury RV that travels from city fest to city fest promoting C-Span. I also got six free reprinted articles from Chicago Magazine, on topics that ranged from the 40 best Chicago novels (ie, “Letting Go” by Philip Roth and “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser) to 100 Bars We Love.
Several friends signed their books in front of Sandmeyer’s: Greg Borzo, Dale Moyer and Mary Ivory. I already have their books. As I do my friend and writer Kelly Rudnicki’s cookbook--she has one child out of her five who is highly allergic and needs a custom diet--and she demonstrated some of her allergy-safe cookie recipes Sunday morning in the Good Eating tent, before doing a signing of her own. The two guys who own Hearty on Broadway hosted the demo.
I stopped by to see friends hawking books at the Illinois Woman’s Press Association booth, too--and at the booths of After Hours Press and Tom Burrell, who wrote "Brainwashed,"--because they were friends of friends.
As a board member of South Loop Neighbors, I narrated one of the Near South Planning Board trolley tours of the area; this year we dropped the run through Chinatown in favor of a run through the Roosevelt Collection. The tour-goers on my tour said I really sounded like I loved my neighborhood--and I suspect that was because of my ardor for the aforementioned, especially the 16-screen theater. I was also taken by SLN’s history of the South Loop exhibit that was up in the Dearborn Station, thanks to SLN president Dennis McClendon who put it together.
Felt bad I missed friends Regina Baiocchi, Laura Caldwell, Joel Greenberg and Adam Langer do their readings.
I bought four books this year: three for $10--an anthology called “As Others See Chicago,” “Hunting for Frogs on Elston” by Jerry Sullivan and “Conversations With Nelson Algren.” (One of the biggest mistakes of my life is not having a conversation with Nelson Algren when I had the chance.) And I bought a new book called “Carless in Chicago,” which I could have--and should have--written, as I haven’t driven my 1987 Volvo (still sitting in my garage) for 10 years next month.
I also went to the Harold Washington Literary Dinner--put on by the Near South Planning Board at the Union League on Friday night, featuring lit fest keynoter Barbara Ehrenreich, who turned out to be a little snippy. I already owned and read a couple of her books and she signed them, but a little perfunctorily. Never asking me if I wanted them inscribed to me, she just signed her name.
You could do a lot of extraneous stuff this year at the fest. Like get your blood pressure taken, hook up with a realtor, try out a new mattress or a massage chair, listen to rock bands, and buy a lot of concessions like wine and grilled foods. But the kind of person who enjoys a book fair likes purity--and not schlock. The Tribune could be shooting itself in the foot. Although they gave fans a chance to talk to a lot of big shots from the paper in a tent set aside for editors and columnists to talk to the reading public. I didn't visit that tent, either.
One of the more interesting things I noticed at the fair was a postcard about an upcoming book called “Royko in Love.” Billed as “Mike’s letters to Carol,” it is a collection of the late writer's love letters to his first wife--who passed away suddenly many years before he did--edited by one of their sons, which will be published by the University of Chicago Press in September. Promos on the card include quotes from Roger Ebert and Lois Wille. Wille said “…the most important words he ever wrote are the ones in this book.”
I couldn’t help wondering what his second wife--and widow--must think.