I lost count, personally. But I am told, now that we’ve finished absorbing it, that the donation of Asian material came to 306 boxes. It’s a diverse collection, with a heavy focus on China, with Japan, India, and Korea following in that order of popularity. (Everybody else comes in a distant fifth.) These are primarily 20th century titles, all but a very few in English, and covering a vast empire of subject matter: Sports, Show Biz, Health, History, Literature, Music, Art, Antiques…even Chicago and Judaica picked up a few Asian titles.
There will be a tinge, then, of Asian studies to this Book Fair, though, to be sure, 306 boxes ought to work out to only ten percent of the total offering. (Of course, other people can donate things Asian as well. I just had half a dozen boxes from one of our volunteers, who was a great student of Lao Tzu and Confucius, though he tended to read them in German.) The Literature ought to sell to out, whether customers are hunting for the great Chinese short story artist as Lu Hsun, Lu Xun, Lu Sun, or even, in the early days, Lusin. The martial arts stuff ought to sell right away, and Asian art is certain to be popular. One box so far was nothing but forty years’ worth of books about Feng Shui; I know people will pick that up. Had a struggle to decide where to put the book on Feng Shui for sexual satisfaction, but as it did deal with interior design—proper decoration will insure the right partner will find you–it went into How To (Hands). (All right: stop giggling in the back of the room.) There’s even a book on Himalayan Cats: when you’ve covered the cute kitty book market, you’ve hit just about everything.
As usual, you will have to hunt for the Asian Erotica: we still don’t have a sign for it. There won’t be a problem finding religious books, though: we are preparing for a massive section dealing with many, many varieties of Buddhism. They’ll sell, along with the Hinduism, Shintoism, and Confucianism. (I have been scolded far putting Confucius in Philosophy AND for putting him in Religion, so check both.) Our customers are all seekers of wisdom, one way or another. Some seek wisdom in the Cooking section, or in How To, and who am I to criticize? I once tried to go north on Chicago Avenue to find Ontario (both Chicago and Ontario run east-west.).
One mild worry remains to trouble my nights. How many books of poetry can we sell over four and a half days? We have lots—I mean to say LOTS—of poetry. Hindu mytho-historical epics, Confucian and Zen poetry from China (Confucians did not feel fiction or drama was proper for a gentleman, but poetry was okay, if it followed the rules), and oh, oh, oh those Japanese! These anthologies of waka, of kanshi, of renga, of senryu…yes, I KNOW we have just as many words for different types of poem as they have, but nobody on this side of the ocean publishes collections of triolets. Or if they do, they have the sense to call it something else and hope nobody notices it’s all triolets.
I’m not taking this lying down. I’m going to my friends at Hallmark (they’ve loved me ever since I stopped trying to sell them verses for Belated Get Well cards) and see if we can’t get an Asian Poetry Book Day declared for, say, August 1. We don’t have much in the way of holidays in August, so if we can start getting people feeling guilty NOW (okay, when was the last time you sent YOUR loved ones any haiku?) we may sell out completely at the end of July.