Say, I don’t know if I should come right out and say so, but we at the Book Fair do NOT stop accepting books on Memorial Day weekend. The Fourth of July is our terminal holiday (though because it falls on a Tuesday this year we need to cut off the weekend before.) We do not not NOT stop accepting books as of this Monday.
I mention this because I have had 150 boxes and 57 bags of books donated over the last two days. This, if you haven’t been reading in this space regularly, is what we call a Surge. I call it other things as well, but to prevent being arrested on any morals charges I generally content myself with banging my head on the loading dock door.
I was sunning myself in a genial way on the dock just yesterday (waiting for a truck that was to unleash sixty boxes of books on me…which, by the way, turned out to be seventy good, solid, big boxes) when a gent dropped by to let me know he had twenty-one boxes of opera records to drop off. When I had finished knocking my head against the metal door, he pointed out one boxful of LPs which had been signed by the artist. “Most of them are signed on the inside,” he pointed out. This was a GOOD thing. I might not have found out that the friend of his who left him these records had albums signed by the likes of Beverly Sills, Victoria de los Angeles, Renata Scotto, Marilyn Horne, and other mighty voices.
Once upon a time, there was a Chicagoan named Claudia Cassidy. She was one of those people whose Opinions Mattered in the cultural world of Chicago. A kind word from her is supposed to have made the reputations of The Glass Menagerie and A Raisin In the Sun; an unkind review (more common from “Acidy Cassidy”) could get a conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ridden out of town on a rail. In the fulness of time, she passed from the scene and, like a number of People Of Importance in the city’s culture (Ashton Stevens, Ann Barzell, Fanny Butcher), part of her collection wound up at the Newberry Library.
In her case, it was her record collection about thirty yards of LPs. I priced as fast as I could and managed to get them ready for that year’s sale.
We got numerous compliments on the record section, many of which I didn’t understand at first. “What a lot of great autographs!” “Where did you get all these signed albums?”
Somebody (I think it was someone else whose name is known in the Cultural World of Chicago) finally tipped me off. All these people had inscribed their records to Claudia Cassidy, but had signed inside the box or, in the case of single LPs, on the paper sleeve inside. So as I was pricing away, I had no idea how much of the history of modern music was passing under my fingers.
If you buy vinyl records at the Book Fair, and if you shop in the Classics section, you have used something of Claudia Cassidy’s. (Some of you have sat on it.) Those big black wooden storage cases just right for displaying records came to us with her record collection. The records–and the accompanying inscriptions–are gone, but these solid record boxes have been used at every Book Fair since. So you could say she is still making an impact on Chicago’s Cultural World.
(Notes for the irritatingly accurate: Claudia Cassidy bequeathed her record collection to Ravinia, which kept what was needed there and passed the crates of vinyl along; Claudia Cassidy never knew her box of Bachs would come here. And although Ms. Cassidy’s married name was Crawford, there is no known family connection between her and the gent who writes in this space, using my name.)