Looking back at the 2017 Book Fair from the point of view of history—one week’s worth of it—I can see there are many who should receive medals for their willpower, brain power, and star power. There are too many for a mere blogger to cover, so if in this list I concentrate on the least thanked, least loved group—the customers—well, the volunteers and staff of the Newberry who played their part will be around to be thanked as we move along into the new year. But I would certainly like to acknowledge the following awards:
GOLD MEDAL FOR SETING THE TONE OF THE WEEKEND: Not five minutes after we were open, I was asked “Do you have any advance proof copies of works by David Foster Wallace?” We didn’t, but at least we had a hint that it was going to be a perfectly normal Book Fair.
GOLD MEDAL FOR THE MOST PERSISTENT CUSTOMER: I think this is the fourth year in a row I’ve been asked where our Chicana section is. The Silver Medal goes to the woman who asked, for the second year, if we had any copies of The Columbian Orator. Neither lady gets what she’s looking for, but we do have the most interesting chats.
GOLD MEDAL FOR THE QUESTION I WAS GLADDEST TO HEAR: “Do you have any copies of Devil in the White City”? Why yes, Ma’am. Please buy ten.
SILVER MEDAL IN THAT CATEGORY: “Are you the one who writes the blog?” I like to think somebody is benefiting from these gems.
LEAD MEDAL AND A TOUR OF THE FAR END OF NAVY PIER: To the customers who started to shout and shove in the Photography Section
GOLD MEDAL FOR DIPLOMACY: To the volunteer who stepped in and quieted the ruffled photo buyers
HUMANITARIAN AWARD: To the companies who volunteered to feed and refresh the volunteer crew: Tri-Star Catering, Bistrot Zinc, Potash Markets, Caffe Baci, Paramount Events, Connie’s Pizza, Occasions Chicago Catering, D’Absolute Catering, A.C.McClirg Bookstore, Food Evolution, Limelight Catering, J&L Catering, Jordan’s Food of Distinction, and Jewell Events Catering
GOLD MEDAL TO THE GREATEST STRETCH OF A MANAGER’S MEMORY: To the lady who asked “What was the name of the designer of those cross stitch patterns you had for sale last year?”
GOLD MEDAL FOR THE MOST CAUTIOUS CUSTOMER: The gentleman who asked “Are autobiographies in the Biography section?”
SILVER MEDAL IN THAT CATEGORY: The lady who said, “I’m looking for old women’s magazines. I mean old magazines for women. Old issues of magazines which were published for women.”
GOLD MEDAL FOR THE MOST DEDUCTIVE CUSTOMER: To the man who asked, “Does HB Fiction A-L mean they’re alphabetized by author’s name or by title?”
PLASTIC MEDAL FOR THE MOST RUDELY DILIGENT CUSTOMER: To the young men who, while tearing open boxes of VHS tapes to get at them, complained that we were charging too much for them (it was Half Price Day)
GOLD MEDAL FOR THE MOST PERCEPTIVE CUSTOMER: The woman who pointed to the Discard Table and warned a friend “Don’t look at that table. You’ll find something.”
GOLD MEDAL FOR THE BEST ATTITUDE BY A CUSTOMER: A lady remarked “I don’t buy books now; I don’t have space” and a young man replied, “Well, neither do we. But we’re planning to buy a house in the next five years.”
SILVER MEDAL IN THAT CATEGORY: The woman who was waiting in checkout and looked over to see Room 2. “Are there more books in there?” she demanded and, on being told it was so, jumped over the rope to rejoin the crowd and continue shopping.
BRONZE MEDAL IN THE ATTITUDE CATEGORY: The woman who, late Sunday night, heard the warning that the Book Fair would be closing in ten minutes, growled, “How can there be ten minutes left? I just GOT to this room!”
STYROFOAM AWARD FOR THE SILLIEST QUESTION A PARENT ASKS A CHILD EVERY SINGLE YEAR AT THE BOOK FAIR: To the mother who asked, “How do you know you want that when you don’t even know what it is?”
AND A PARTICIPANT AWARD TO: Everyone who came to the Fair, everyone who couldn’t and is sorry about it, and everyone who reads this column to keep up with what’s doing in this corner of the world of books. Stay the course for 2017-18—the renovation generation—and we’ll see this thing through to next July.