Am I Blue? You'd Be Too | Newberry

Am I Blue? You'd Be Too

The place was getting a bit blue this week. This was not, as the more cynical among you might suspect, the result of Uncle Blogsy’s remarks when the paper bag split open. My language was that of a gentleman, as always. I was merely inquiring of August Heaven why a bagful of books always knows to land on the one volume in the bag that was worth extra money, and rip its jacket.

No, I refer to a tendency toward Smurfishness shown by some of the donations you were dropping off. It wasn’t enough to declare a general Smurf Week, but I was getting ready to hoist the blue flag, just in case.

I am very proud of the variety the Newberry’s Book Fair offers the public. I boast to newcomers that they can find just about everything here, from quilting magazines to books in Japanese. I don’t, however, recall asking anybody to send me quilting magazines in Japanese. No, please don’t rush over to buy them right now: you have to wait for July, like anyone else.

Books on antique china? Not Smurfish. Books dealing with chintz? Hardly blue at all. A guide to antique china with chintz patterns is pushing the blue envelope.

Smurfish is the word I use to describe the donations which make me stand back in wonder. What I’m wondering is “What are the chances that there are TWO people in the Greater Metropolitan Area who want this?” I am used to getting record albums autographed by the great and the small, performers from Tito Gobbi to that bandleader on the cruise ship your parents toured the Caribbean with in 1956. I was not expecting an album inscribed by a legendary mariachi musician (anyhow, the record says he is; I don’t know if Wikipedia has a list of legendary mariachi men.)

The boxful of classical music of India was a trifle unusual, but I couldn’t call it Smurfish. The entire box of LPs by trumpet player Al Hirt also struck me as mildly interesting. Then I found that the previous owner of Al’s albums had annotated the playlist on each and every one, marking the songs with notes which meant something, I suppose, to him, but which are not easy to decipher now. He was, I am told, a professor of brass music, so it would almost seem reasonable enough to take it out of the Smurfish classification. Except that in several case he had three or four copies of the same album and annotated each one. (I don’t CARE if you’re doing your dissertation on Al Hirt; you HAVE to wait for July to buy these.)

The Halloween candy dish in the shape of a book is unusual but not terribly Smurfish. It talks, but lots of our books talk. What makes it a candidate for Smurf of the Week is that it came to me filled with…no, not vintage Tootsie Rolls but books. Using a box shaped like a book to transport books makes a donor look blue to me.

People can be Smurfish, too, y’know. We’ve made a deal with a gentleman in a high-rise building not far from the library. He wants to make room in his library but doesn’t want to give us all his books. So he has invited the volunteer to come and pick out the ones the Book Fair could use. Then HE will go through the ones that have been picked and decide which ones he’ll let us have.

I’m not saying he’s a Smurf. I’m suggesting that those of us who actually agreed to this bluish idea may want to get measured for those floppy white shoes.

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