Book Fair Futures 2020, Part II | Newberry

Book Fair Futures 2020, Part II

A figure in a cloak and low-brimmed hat, unusual in Chicago in late July, slips up by darkness to a small door lit only by one light. The figure taps at the door: one short, two long. A small panel opens in the door, revealing a window and, behind the window, hard suspicious eyes.

“Yeah?” comes a voice from inside.

A hoarse, desperate voice replies, clear but low, “Uncle Blogsy sent me.”

The voice becomes no friendlier. “You know Uncle Blogsy, huh?”


The little panel slams shut. “We can’t let you in, then.”

I know, I know. You’re waiting for a revival of the good old days of Prohibition speakeasies, with the passwords, clandestine gatherings, and police raids. Forget about it. I am NOT having the 2020 version of Eliot Ness coming around looking for me.

Despite all our hopes for a brighter tomorrow, the 2020 Book Fair has been cancelled, or, if you want to look on the bright side, postponed. (There has been no scientific testing of my theory that black jelly beans will get us out of this, but who knows? I might be proven right any day now, and we can hold the Book fair right after I get back from picking up my Nobel Prize.)

There are both legal and moral reasons behind the decision, which was no great shock or surprise to those of us who have been standing by while The Powers That Are made up their minds. Having seen the five phase plan for reopening Illinois, it’s hard to tell whether it would even be legal to have a Book Fair this July. Under Phase IV, which we might see yet this summer, you’re allowed gatherings of up to 50 people at a time. So the volunteers could be here, but this would leave no room for any customers. (Which some checkout folks think would work just fine.)

And even then, we have no indication of when, if ever, it would be safe to let people get within six feet of each other, or whether if one person picks up a book and puts it back, we can let anybody else touch that book in under 24 hours. See, we have no desire to indiscriminately kill our customers and volunteers.

We want to be selective about that, as always.

The plan has one advantage that leapt right out at me. Ever since the turn of the century, I have been battling the Anniversary Syndrome. In 2004, there were plans to celebrate the fact that we were having our twentieth Book Fair. And people kept shouting out about the Book Fair’s Twentieth Anniversary.

Irritating to Uncle Blogsy who kept muttering that the Twentieth Book Fair and the Twentieth Anniversary Book Fair are one year apart. You don’t celebrate your first wedding anniversary on your wedding day, right? So the Second Book Fair was the First Anniversary. This bit of mathematical logic always got me strange looks. I suppose Math People are used to that. (Note to self: write horror movie, Curse of the Math People.)

But if we skip a Book Fair along the way, the problem rights itself. Unless we give in and hold a Book Fair on Black Friday or something, next year will be both our Thirty-Seventh Book Fair AND our Thirty-Seventh Anniversary.

Trust me: you’ll sleep better knowing that.

For the rest, we don’t know much because there are too many variables in the equation. (There’s that Math again.) MIGHT we have a Book Fair when Phase V, the official “All Clear”, is sounded? Don’t know: don’t know when that’s going to happen. MIGHT we have a special window you could pull up to once a month and buy a boxful of books to keep busy with while you shelter at home? Maybe. MIGHT we come into your homes via the computer and spend the last weekend in July auctioning off a few collectibles? Possibly. We just don’t know much about what’s coming up.

Except one thing I KNOW that YOU know you can depend upon. The building’s still closed, so don’t bother dropping off any books. No one’s there to take them in. No, not even if you tell ‘em Uncle Blogsy sent you.