Back to Basics | Newberry

Back to Basics

I see the tears running down your cheeks. Are they tears of joy because the Book Fair is finally almost here? Or are they tears of sorrow because you know that Uncle Blogsy’s column goes away for a couple of weeks while he concentrates of the world of commerce?

Both, you say: it’s tears of joy because Uncle Blogsy stops…just for that, go to the end of the line. No early access to The Help for you, Cauliflower Compote.

This is the time of year when I worry whether, through the fussing and discussing of the past year, you learned the basics of Attending the Newberry Book Fair. The basics are essentially these:

The Book Fair runs on Thursday and Friday, July 25 and 26, from noon to 8 P.M., and Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28, from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. IF you have given the Newberry $100 cash in the past year (or $50 if you are young enough, you are an Associate, and you can come Wednesday, July 24, from 4 to 8 P.M. Admission is free on all these days, though if you are NOT an Associate, you can become one Wednesday by paying your money down at the door.

The whole affair is air-conditioned. It is indoors, not at all outdoors (the Bughouse Square Debates, that Saturday, are outdoors, but not us), so you will be shopping in a climate-controlled area (surrounded by people who have just come in out of a Chicago summer, so it may not immediately feel so cool.) There are no drinking fountains on the first floor, but the ones by the basement restrooms are operational. MOST (not all) of our restrooms are operational as well. We do not have an ATM, but if you need one, there are three within three blocks of the place.

You may buy as much as you can carry. We have squirreling areas where you can park books when your arms get full, and go get some more. How you pay for these is with cash, check, or plastic (and, I think, one or more high-tech methods). How you carry them home is up to you. If you have a phone on you, there are all kinds of possibility. We have not had a payphone on the premises for many years.

You will find the biggest arrays waiting for you in History, Art, Cooking, and Children’s books. Among the goodies you can buy are Ruth Page’s copies of Opera News (with her address label on them), a signed first edition of Death of a Salesman, a massive collection of books on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and a number of magazines about postcard collecting. We have a bunch of seventy to ninety year-old books on airplanes, a passel of books on UFOs, and hundreds of DVDs featuring television mystery shows, from Perry Mason to A Touch of Frost. These things are priced anywhere from a dollar to $2500. We have enough books and CDs and DVDs this year that as you buy things, we will have a crew watching and measuring what to bring out of stock to put out for sale the next morning. Yeah, if you want to see everything, you’ll need to come every day. (Someone asked once, “So why do I pay to get in at the Preview, if I don’t get to see everything?” The answer, of course, is “So you can get a head start.”

A white-whiskered man in a white apron with cactus patches (he didn’t select this pattern) will be moving among you. He is available to answer questions, but don’t expect him to be NEARLY as witty as he is in this space (Yeah, keep your expectations way low.) He may be rushing to check on a report of a broken bookcase, or hurrying to tell someone why the book signed by Edward L. Bernays is $1500, or just looking for someone who can supply more paper cups for the Coffee Lounge. And don’t pat him on the back. I’ve TOLD you about this. The lunatic wears a sweater all summer long, and in mid-Fair, this acts like a sponge.

A week from tonight, the balloon goes up, the people rush in (politely, please: don’t break your leg or anybody else’s), and we will be underway again with our annual refutation of the sneering statement “Books make a room look cluttered.” Come every day, see everything, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be back to tell you about the things you might have missed. L’chaim!

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