I could tell the crowd which had come to the Newberry Library for Chicago Humanities Festival events was the right kind of crowd. Every time there was a break in the action, they were at the A.C.McClurg Bookstore. And a goodly number of them were clustered around the carts of Book fair books out front.
There is joy around these carts, but also controversy. Why so many cat books? Why so many teddy bear books? Why so many….
Because they sell, folks. That’s one of several reasons we park books out there. We HOPE they’ll bring in revenue. (They do.) We HOPE they lure people into the bookstore to buy some of the new books from the good folks of the Seminary Co-op. (Some people do go in and find good stuff, some people never buy anything at retail. That’s life.) And we HOPE it’ll provide an outlet for those books we can’t quite decide how else to handle. Take Ideals, for example.
Ideals are 9x12 laminated paperbacks which were a sort of grandmother, or great-aunt, of the Chicken Soup for the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Soul sort of books. They are collections of warm, positive short stories, essays, poems, and pictures about that issue’s theme. Some are holiday themed—Christmas, Easter, etc.—while others are seasonal: Winter Ideals, Spring ideals, and maybe you can figure out the rest. And some are not calendar-based at all, like the Friendship Ideals. They are still published, by the way: this year’s is the 66th annual Christmas Ideals.
But where do we sort them? They are not intended, as the Chicken Soup for the Podiatrist’s Soul books, to be motivational. the aim seems to be a temporary suspension of today’s troubles in contemplation of broader topics. They are a mix of prose and poetry, though poetry seems to predominate, so both Literature and Poetry are possibilities. Some of our more high-brow volunteers utterly refused to consider them as candidates for Literature, though.
“Oh, just put them in Religion,” said another volunteer.
“Religion?” sez I, scratching my head.
“Well, they’ve got that same touchy-feely atmosphere.” There are no photographs extant of this volunteer in choir robes.
Last month, somebody gave us about twenty years’ worth of Christmas and Winter Ideals. The timing was, er, ideal, so all of them were priced and went straight out to the carts, where we had no need to argue about it. When one of the customers pulled out a Christmas ideals and called to her friend, “Look at this!” I smiled my Book-Fair-Manager-Does-It-Again smile.
“I remember those!” said her friend. “They were lots of fun to read…once.” And they put it back on the cart and walked into the store to buy something new instead. I went off to a quiet corner and had some chicken soup.