Continuing the theme of October holidays, it occurred to me that you may wonder what Book Fair Managers do when they gather at Halloween. Of course they gather at Halloween: all dark, sinister creatures do. Bats fly low, werewolves prowl in packs, witches go out for a brew, and schoolchildren lie in wait at doorways to divest you of your goodies. It’s the ghosts’ high noon.
The costume comes first, of course. By and large, we dress as grizzled prospectors of Gold Rush days or hobos. These costumes look a lot like our day-to-day attire, but to dress as a hobo we need to polish our shoes. Sometimes we dress as our scariest donors. In the days when my hair was more numerous, I could have gotten a flat top haircut and pretended to be that flatbed truck that pulled up to the dock earlier this month. I could, I suppose, attend with an invisible rabbit and say that’s my RV, but these literary puns don’t go over as once they did. What ARE they teaching in the schools these days?
We gather in a secret location where the room has been decorated with scary dustjackets: not just from the obvious books–The DaVinci Code, the Divine Secrets of ther Ya-Ya Sisterhood (“EEEEEK! Not another copy of that!”)—but also things like Dracula or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Because the theme is not just terror but also calories, we will also hang up jackets from Chocolat and Looking for Mr. Goodbar, say, and books by John Hersey or Della Reese. Books by Robert Benchley or Will Cuppy are fair game (Snickers) or any book about a Chicago sports franchise (Butterfingers). We used to put up Terry Southern’s Candy until somebody complained it was supposed to be candy CORN, not candy porn. Everyone’s an editor.
The refreshments are also aimed at the bookish brain. We dig into pumpkin spice library paste spread on small crackers (Ritz as big as diamonds) and drink whiskey with tomato sauce in it (ketchup in the rye). Non-drinkers make do with a powdered instant beverage that has a slice of lemon and a battery in it. (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid…yeah, you saw that coming.) Every year I suggest chocolate-covered books, since they would be in mint condition, and every year the others make their annual reply, which is not suitable for printing in this blog.
We play party games, of course. Instead of pushing a peanut across the floor with our nose, we try to turn the pages in a Peanuts book with our nose. (There’s a difference of opinion on whether this would be easier with a Kindle.) We play Authors, of course, with our own deck of cards and our own rules. (Get enough copies of The Help, and you lose.) And, as midnight draws near, we gather around the light of one brightly burning copy of the Viking Desk Encyclopedia and tell scary stories. (“And when he opened the door, hanging from the door handle was…a banana box!”)
So we Book Fair Managers are just folks, really. Like everyone else we let our hair down (metaphorically, if nothing else) and have a howling good time. I may or may not be able to attend the annual shindig this year. Since Halloween falls on a Friday AND is the last day of a Please Don’t Bring Us Any Books Month, I may be sorting out a truckload that was delivered at 5 P.M. But at least this will give me a horror story for next year.