Well, that went unpleasantly well. I was kind of hoping there wouldn’t be dozens of people hurling themselves into the lake after the announcement that there would be no book binge this July. And there were nor. Of course, the lakefront is still closed, which may have something to do with it, but Chicagoans are known for their ingenuity.
As a matter of act, among the emails and phone messages I received after the announcement, for every caller who wailed, “But what shall I do? Where shall I go for books this summer?” there were about three saying, “Okay, I get it, but I’ve been spending my quarantine sorting books.” In fact one emailer wrote, straight out, “I never come to the Book fair anyway, so I don’t mind what you do, as long as you keep taking donations.”
Kind of a problem there, okra omelet. We had people even before the current crisis wondering if we didn’t just have too many books. The idea of putting out two years’ worth of donations in 2021 will not sit well with these folks. (Especially if, as some emailers suggested, it will be three years’ worth of books in 2022. Little rays of sunshine.)
I do not despair of processing donations again one day. There ARE book charities in town which have left their donation doors open, and are unloading the books online. Several people have suggested that as soon as I can get my (gloved) hands on the books again, I exploit the crisis. It’s the American way.
“What we need,” they say, “Are CARE packages for people sheltering at home. Why not get up a few boxes of jigsaw puzzles, paperback romances, and books on self-improvement and sell them at so much a box? You’d make millions!”
When I raise the question of timing (by the time I am allowed to pack books again, the rest of you will all have been back at work for two weeks), I am told, “So sell them to people for the NEXT pandemic. The virus is coming around to get us again. Everybody knows that.”
Yes, I’ve read the experts on the Interwebs (I can summarize them all for you: whatever you’re doing right now is wrong and if you think things are getting better, you’re a dope). But let’s say we at the Book Fair want to give the quarantine package a shot. The main problem THEN (as always) is the customers.
Everybody has their own ideas about what to do while sitting at home. Some people want to be up and doing, while others want to settle back with a cup or a glass and something that will help them escape the building for a few hours. We’d need to set up an order form which would be more like a personality quiz than people are used to.
FICTION: Do you want edgy, philosophical drive and a depressing ending, or do you want the hero and heroine to solve their difficulties, the mystery, AND the problem of the mortgage on the sewing supply shop and live happily ever after (until the sequel)?
NONFICTION: Do you want something that will encourage you to accomplish something (building a bookcase, improving your memory, learning Urdu) or do you want something you can sit back and think about while you sip your, er, herbal tea (problems of history, mathematical paradoxes, or theological conundrums)?
TIME LIMIT: Do you want something you can finish reading in one sitting or do you want a reading project that will take you days or weeks as you work your way through to the endnotes?
JIGSAW PUZZLES: How many pieces? How many colors? (The fewer colors in a jigsaw puzzle, the longer it takes to finish)
COOKBOOKS, CRAFT BOOKS: Do you want projects which will require three or four hours of socially distant shopping to get all the parts/ingredients, or do you want things you can make with the yarn, nails, outdated cake mixes, and old jars of jam you already have?
BONUS ROUND: For an extra fifty bucks, we will shoot video of Uncle Blogsy or a designated volunteer going through the books to pick out your selections. Close your eyes and pretend YOU were here shopping. Be among our first one hundred callers and we will toss in, absolutely free, your choice of The Da Vinci Code or The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.