I spent the entire past weekend in Chicago at the Printers Row Lit Fest which is a books and literary festival of truly epic proportions sponsored by the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Chicago is my home town, and I consider myself quite lucky to have such fun reasons to come back to visit! As an author, I consider it the most fun you can have signing books…and still keep it legal.
I’ve been signing books there now for five years, but this was the first time I took some extra time to return the next day to just hang out. Usually I’m flying out of the tent with raindrops on my shoulders, two steps ahead of a storm, and plastic flapping around the books I’m trying to keep dry. This year, though, the weather was actually DRY for the weekend. Beastly hot further away from the lake, but in the breezy shade of Dearborn Street under the Illinois Woman’s Press Association tent, it was quite civilized. I hit a personal “best” in selling books on Saturday, and was tickled that one gal bought a set of all three, tied up in pink ribbons, as a present for a friend’s upcoming bridal shower. Just yards away from the tent, the French chanteur Michelet Innocent played the guitar and sang songs in French and Spanish all day long. He was truly a joy to listen to.
The next day, on Sunday morning, I went back to meet some friends and finally walk around this extraordinary place for the first time. Selling books in a tent is a bit like riding on a float in a parade–you don’t get to see the rest of it. I got to sit in on a live interview with columnist Gail Collins of the New York Times, browsed shelves of used books and bought several children’s books about horses that had illustrations by Wesley Dennis. As a child, I simply loved his painting of horses in all those books by Marguerite Henry. And while browing a row of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who was not only a serious collector of first edition books, but incredibly knowledgeable about the series’ history, as well as much in the realm of cinema. He sent me on my way with the notion that I need to watch the 1949 movie Rope of Sand starting Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains. Since he became quite animated about the fact that the movie was also the film debut of the French actress Corinne Calvet, I’ve already begun watching it…and discovered that (1) she’s one of the most interesting film noir temptresses on celluloid, an (2) the poker game scene between Burt Lancaster and Paul Henreid is WAY more better than the casino sequence found in Casino Royale.
And one of the surprising things I finally got to discover was glimpsing some of the beautiful art and architecture of the former Printing House Row District in Chicago. One of these days I’ll have to return when the street isn’t hosting throngs of thousands, and bring my camera to capture the details.
All in all, a very good weekend, and a highly recommended pilgrimage for book lovers…and Chicago lovers as well.