Book Fair Blog

Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

Home for the Holidays

I suppose everyone is celebrating the advent of the first of September. Yes, indeedy. Yesterday was the first day you could donate books again after a two-month hiatus.

I am not even going to MENTION that you have donated roughly 200 boxes of books in the last two months. Nor will I mention the sixty-five shopping bags of books. Nor the stacks of loose books, the boxes of records, the boxes of cassettes, the dance posters, or the ship’s compass from 1940.

I might sound ungrateful.

And the idea is for you to think I am grateful indeed that you are donating books again, since I am immediately going to ask you not to bring me anything this weekend.

Alas, life is long and full of thorns. This weekend is Labor Day Weekend, the perfect weekend for grilling, swimming, hiking, buying Christmas presents on layaway, and, of course, dropping off books at the Newberry. But we’re closed, banana bratwurst, so that our staff can also go grilling, swimming, etc. etc. The doors will be locked, and nobody will be able to step outside long enough to drag in all those Ya-Ya Sisters you were planning to drop off. You see (let’s whisper this) there are culture snobs in the neighborhood who might steal your copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to start the fire in the backyard pit. Turning Fifty Shades of Grey into charcoal just adds another shade of grey, and throws off the title.

Now, about that other traditional Labor Day activity, the buying of Christmas doodads and decorations. If you have never made your way to the second floor of the A.C. (Always Christmas) McClurg Bookstore in the Newberry lobby, you may wish to do so now. Space has been made available for your Uncle Blogsy to display some of the leftover merchandise from the Very Merry Bazaar.

If you who weren’t born yet, the Newberry’s Very Merry Bazaar was an adventure mainly of the 1990s, at which assorted not-for-profits would rent booth space and sell doodaddery from their gift shops. I first learned of it when I was told “You’re going to have a booth at the Very Merry Bazaar.”

“The what?” I said. It was explained to me, and I learned how to build a mini-Book Fair using cookbooks, Chicago books, art books, collectibles, and the knicky-knacky sort of donations which came in on a regular basis and popped up like mushrooms around the Book Fair every July.

There is no time, and less demand, for a whole history of the Book Fair’s brilliant booth over the years, how one year it had an edged weapons section, and how for several years it had a crystalware department, how some people sneered at its “garage sale” air and how others couldn’t wait to come see the crocheted people and bright prints we would set out for them.

What matters for this little essay is that, in the fullness of time, the Bazaar began to dwindle. People lost interest in the mighty four-day extravaganza, and experimented with a one-day extravaganza. An abbreviated extravaganza can be a sorry thing, and we were only a little into the twenty-first century when I asked about the mighty sale and was told, “Oh, we’re not doing that any more.”

Which left me with seventy boxes of crocheted people, bizarre Christmas tree ornaments, bizarre ornaments for non-Christmas trees (there was this push once for decorating trees at other times of year: didn’t catch on), figurines, souvenir soap, and chamberpots. (A customer once demanded, “Can’t you lower the price on this soup tureen? It’s only got one handle!” I had to explain.)

But now, after all these years (and payments for the storage locker I stacked the stuff in), I have shelves where a faint glimmer of the old Very Merry can be seen. I have held off on the Christmas ornaments, somewhat, but the dear old grimcracks and thingumabobbers are out of their crumpled newspaper and eager to be viewed (and, um, purchased). Come take a look at the figure of the Pharoah, the little bears, and, of course, the crocheted people.

Just not this weekend.

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