LitKicks member shamatha was kind enough to offer this eyewitness report from Chicago’s Printer’s Row Book Fair:
So on Saturday I went to the Printer’s Row Bookfair, presented by the Chicago Tribune, Target, and Jewel, among others.
To start off, it was really hot. With Printers Row, the Old Town Art Fair, Blues Fest and the Red Sox in town to play the Cubs, it was a good weekend in Chicago to go out and mingle with sweaty people eating greasy food.
We woke up late-ish on Saturday morning. On the train we saw a couple Red Sox fans. One of them was wearing a David Ortiz jersey with ‘Papi’ on the back. That’s not as bad as having ‘Ortiz’, but still; does anybody else find it weird, bordering on unacceptable, for men over the age of 30 to wear a jersey with a player’s name on the back? It’s one thing for a 16-year-old to look up to somebody, but for a 40-something to wear an ‘Garciaparra’ jersey or something; I mean, in high school we gave our football jerseys to our girlfriends. I guess it’s the frequent homophobia of the many hardcore sports fans that makes it funny to me that so many wear a shirt advertising their favorite player wouldn’t be able to order their own jerseys from NFL.com because their last names are on a 1,000+ potentially offensive words that are banned list, but that’s another, non-bookfair related story.
I was planning on arriving in time to arrive in time to see, on firecracker’s recommendation, Li-Young Lee read at 1 pm. We got there about 12:50 pm. However, Mr. Lee’s reading was at an offsite location, and I didn’t feel like arriving at the book fair just to leave and walk somewhere else. I did see several people wearing Li-Young Lee authentic game-worn Starter jerseys, however.
I was mostly there to browse the used books anyway. I was somewhat interested in seeing Paul Theroux read from his new novel at 4 pm, but by the time the hour had neared, I was wildly unenthusiastic about standing in a packed tent listening to a guy read from a book. I may have mentioned this already, but it was an exceptionally warm and humid day.
The fair is oriented around a stretch of Dearborn Street, starting just south of the Harold Washington Library and stretching two blocks to old Dearborn Station. (If I remember to take in the film tomorrow, there might be some mildly uninteresting photos of the event in a few days), This once was the mecca of Chicago’s meager publishing industry. Now it’s just some nice old buildings being converted into loft space as part of Chicago’s South Loop gentrification.
There were about 150 used and new booksellers there. The bigger ones had their own tents, the smaller would go foursies on a tent, each occupying a side. The big chains had big tents across the intersection from each other.
I was somewhat disappointed in the selection available. I overheard one seller telling a woman that he really only brought the stuff that didn’t sell online, and I imagine that was a common practice among the rest. So there was a lot of milling around tables, bumping into people and then swapping places. Considering the heat and the crowd, everyone was really polite.
Stephen King, mysteries and sci-fi dominated the tables along with old best-sellers. Lots of Penguin Classics. It was interesting browsing the small press tables to see what the universities and indies were producing, but I’m also not about to drop $20+ on an unknown author.
That’s about all there is to say about the event. There’s not much to talk about when you’re just walking about looking at used books. I saw Nick Hornby signing books. He looked British and seemed very happy to be meeting with his fans. With a little planning, there were some reading and/or panels that I might have been interested and seeing. But I’m not huge on watching people read or talk about books.
I’m not sure why writers are also required to perform. It’s not as if actors are required to write their own lines. And it bothers me that a book’s success can depend on the ability to self-promote as much or more than on the writing, which I guess is the point (self-promoting) of these whole events.
Anyways, that’s it.