Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Day At Printers Row


It should not take a special event to remind me of this, but Chicago is truly a cultural mecca.  The city and the surrounding burbs (a few of them, anyway) have been fertile grounds for triumphs of art, the theater, and of course, literature.  Printers Row Literary Fest is a testament to that latter point.

What is it like?  Imagine a farmers market that is several city blocks long but rather than cabbage and carrots, the goods being peddled are books.  Wonderful books of every kind.  Rare ones, vintage ones, and ones long out of print and forgotten.  Perhaps most importantly, it is a venue for small and independent presses.  These are the kind of presses that give voice to the unique and the innovative and not simply in fiction.  There was, just as an example, a group of people who were pushing organic and vegan cookbooks.  Just all different varieties of subject matter written by authors who, thanks to the Fest, have a venue in which to get their books in front of consumers.
Along those same lines, I languished in the oppressive heat, up and down the rows of tented vendors, handing out Strange Horizons business cards to everyone I spoke with.  Made a few connections with science fiction writers and publishers and learned of a few upcoming events that I should certainly attend.  
One of those is Capricon, taking place next February in Wheeling, Illinois with Cory Doctorow as the guest of honor.  Coming up in November is WindyCon 38, a convention for science fiction writers and fans.  Additionally, 2012 is the year of the World Science Fiction Convention here in Chicago.  That's something I need to make myself present at, hopefully pimping a few e-books at that point.
As I'm sure you might expect, it would be impossible for me to walk away from such a literary event without plunking down for a good bag of swag.  Here's my haul:

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
Brand New Universe by Jack Williamson
Agent of T.E.R.R.A. : The Flying Saucer Gambit (I have no idea what it is, it just looked like a cool pulp)
A digest edition of Marvel's Conan the Barbarian from the Roy Thomas days.

All but the Vance novel came from Hooked On Books in Bollingbrook, Illinois.  I need to head over there as they have quite the vast selection of pulp gems, especially The Shadow.

In other news of the day, I watched rehearsals for a flash mob called Make Your Mark.  Of course the idea of rehearsal does somewhat take away from the spontaneity of a flash mob, but these folks had a great mission: foisting reading upon Chicago and increasing literacy in general.  Anybody with those intentions, especially all the young people present, is all right by me.  I also ran into a few good friends, such as Chicago Vince, the hardest working funnyman in Chicago.  I also got to see Jason, an old friend from my Saint Joe days who was at the Lit Fest with his lovely gal pal, Alexis.  
One thing that really struck me was the table from Branchwater Books, hailing from Luddington, Michigan.  They were selling prints of covers from vintage books and magazines, reminding me of the connection between art and literature and just how important cover art was and still is for a publication.  Yeah, they say "never judge a book by it's cover," but the kind of art deco deliciousness that I saw should make anyone rethink that axiom.  Note:



I was of course drawn to their collection of Golden Age science fiction covers, things like Amazing Stories and the like.  After all, who could resist a hot test tube girl?




Yep.  Now that's real art.  I jest, of course.  Sorta.
Doubtless your own community or a neighboring city has a literary event or book sale it holds.  While it may not be on the scale of the one in Chicago, I encourage you to support it.  It keeps you reading, it keeps used bookstores in operation, it keeps rare gems in circulation, and you might just love what you find.



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