I was worried, frankly, on Preview Night of the 2014 Book Fair. Hardly anybody was asking questions. “I’m glad they’re all so serious about buying,” I said to myself, “But if nobody asks anything, where will my post-fair blogs come from?”
Fortunately, the later customers did not let me down, and I wound up with plenty of notes. I always make a note of what people ask: if a dozen people ask me where the books on playing bass guitar are, I know either that I need a new subject sign or there’s a convention in town.
First off, a double thank you to everyone who paused to tell me how much they liked the blog. One thank you is for saying it and the second is for not thinking that entitled you to a discount. (There’s a rumor that I pay people to leave comments on my blog. This is untrue. I don’t even pay people NOT to leave comments. You shouldn’t have to go to the Bughouse Square Debates for free speech.)
My notes include all the usual questions, without which we could not go on, from “Where are the restrooms?” and “What time do you close?” to “Where are the romances I’m buying one for a friend?” (they ALWAYS have to get that second bit in there) and “What can I do? I left my glasses at home!” But among the more creative customers, we had questions to save for the archives.
When was this building finished? (It wasn’t; we add a few new bits every year.)
When do you start accepting donations again? (This was asked several times, the first time at 4:02 P.M. on Preview Night. Can’t you concentrate on buying them for at least one weekend?)
Have all the Lonely Doll books sold? (Very optimistic, asking that on Sunday. Or very thrifty.)
Have you considered having a Metaphysics Section? (Every year when you ask, friend, for at least ten seconds)
Should this 200-page mystery still cost a dollar when all the 400-page mysteries cost a dollar? (No, we should be charging two dollars because short mysteries are so rare these days.)
Do you have any pictures of Old Bughouse Square? (Well, there’s that one on our poster from about 1999.)
Did these prints actually hang in the Palmer House? (In those days I didn’t have the money to drop by and check out the art.)
What was that book by Theodore Dreiser I had to read in high school? (I am absurdly proud of having gotten this one right: An American Tragedy. Everyone I tell this story to guesses Sister Carrie, which impresses me. I didn’t know there was that much Dreiser-reading going on in America today.)
Why don’t you have a record player in here so we can test out these records? (We did, but we sold it.)
Why can’t you do this EVERY weekend? (That wouldn’t leave the other weekends free for people to drop off…excuse me; someone’s dropping off books right now.)