Printer’s Row Lit Fest 2011 – Recap!
I have lived in Chicago for over six years now, and each year I have (for a variety of reasons) been unable to attend the annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest. Either I was out of town, or had to work, or was doing something-or-other that kept me away. As a BookNerd, this broke my heart. Finally, stars aligned and I was able to attend the 2011 event to see what all the hullabaloo was about.
A stretch south of the loop that’s a cornerstone of the Chicago publishing industry, Printer’s Row is a pleasant area full of bars/restaurants, lovely architecture, and rare book stores. Located only a few blocks away from the imposing and formidable Harold Washington Public Library, it’s a landmark area for book nerds like myself. The annual festival brings together book sellers, readers, and writers in a weekend festival of the printed word. This was the 27th time the festival has been held.
Saturday’s weather forecast was heat and thunderstorms, so I threw an umbrella in my bag, loaded up on sunblock and headed out the door early with my good friends Amanda and Dan. We got there right as the fest opened, and as such managed to score some really great books at great prices before the stacks started to get picked over by rabid readers.
With frequent hydration breaks due to the sweltering heat, we made our way through the numerous booths of booksellers.
Some of course put on more impressive displays than others. We were super impressed with the Open Books booth, which came as no surprise. In addition to having one of the biggest, best-priced collection of books, all their proceeds go to literacy programs – which is totally a noble cause.
In addition to book sellers, there were some authors on hand signing copies of their books, as well as a handmade jewelry maker and some other clever booths. Like Acura. Who would have thought a car company would be willing to sponsor a booth at a street festival that has nothing to do with cars? Yet, there they were with a car filled with books and a raffle you could enter by guessing how many books it would take to fill one of their vehicles.
My purchases: I think I spent a whopping $25 to score copies of E.L. Doctorow’s “The March,” Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimajarao and Other Stories,” an anthology called The Best American Travel Writing 2005,” and a gorgeous children’s book called “A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travellers” by Nancy Willard. There were so many great deals to be found. In addition, I purchased a fascinating item – “A La Card” – a deck of 52 cards, each of which is a description of a Chicago restaurant and a $10 coupon to the restaurant.
Dan’s haul: I talked Dan into buying Christopher Moore’s “A Dirty Job” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Homer and Langley,” which delighted me. He also got a collection of stories about female sleuths. He also made my day by purchasing the above baby tee for my yet-unborn child. (If ever a kid was destined to be a book lover, it’s this one.)
Amanda’s haul: Amanda went looking for specific books, namely Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” which she ended finding in an adorable 1954 hardcover edition for $3. Her quest for Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park” proved fruitless, but she wound with a really great hardcover edition of “Pride and Prejudice,” so she was pleased. (In typical used book shopping fashion, Austen sells out fast.) She also left with a book about Henry V’s wives, and a copy of Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.”
Had the heat been less intense, we likely would have popped into the numerous tents to catch a few more authors speaking, but wandering the streets where the breeze was seemed a better idea. However, upon hearing that Chicago Tribune theatre-dude Chris Jones was going to be interviewing playwright/writer David Henry Hwang, Dan and I knew we had to attend.
Jones and Hwang led a super interesting panel, during which Hwang’s work was discussed in-depth, including his new play “Chinglish” which is getting it’s premier at The Goodman Theatre this season. Hwang spoke about his work on Disney Broadway musicals, his interest in exploring issues of multiculturalism, his masterpiece/most famous work, “M. Butterfly” and hinted that a major revival may be in the early stages.
Here’s a couple brief videos of the conversation.
At the end of the panel, the heat had gotten to us, so we took off for a late lunch before heading home.
(By the By, once we were on the bus it started to rain. So that umbrella I hauled all day DID come in handy. My advice to those attending outdoor events in Chicago: Weather changes fast, so always be prepared)
I returned to the fest for a bit in the morning on Sunday to get some more great last-day book deals as well as to attend a panel featuring authors Wendy McClure and Kelly O’Connor McNees in conversation with Megan Stielstra. Ms. O’Connor McNees (who’s written a book about Louisa May Alcott) had food poisoning and was unable to attend, but McClure delivered. I read her hilarious weight-loss memoir, “I’m not the new me” several years ago and have kept it on my shelf ever since.
McClure has written a new book, “The Wilder Life,” about her Laura Ingalls Wilder/Little House on the Prairie fandom. (I’ll be reviewing that shortly, as well as sharing a great video of her reading from that book.)
Below, Wendy McClure talks about her twittering as Laura Ingalls Wilder. 🙂
I scored some more fantastic deals on books, too. Faulkner, Judy Blume, William Peter Blatty, some parenting books, and more wound up in my bag. Yes, I left overloaded.
Overall, the weekend was great. The weather cooperated and everyone seemed in a good mood. I will definitely return next year – though I’ll be pushing a stroller, so we’ll see how that goes – and am looking forward to another great weekend.