What prompts an already way-too-busy person to start a blog? In my case, it’s a love of words, writing, and the world’s wonders… and, evidently, a desire to express myself through alliteration. Seriously, though – there’s so much to discover and discuss. So that’s the “literary” part. What’s “lunchbox,” then? A few portable bites for sustenance.
The Printers Row Lit Fest is more like a feast. This two-day event attracted thousands despite the drizzly weather, with dozens of booths featuring publishers, booksellers, authors, and more. Used books and other bargains seemed to attract the biggest crowds. Here’s what I bought: Disobedience (Jane Hamilton– reliably good), Writers Harvest (short stories edited by Ethan Canin), Requiem for an Assassin (Barry Eisler, featuring his Japanese-American hitman), and Missing (short stories, edited by Amy Alessio, all about missing persons). Also 2 t-shirts with the Printers Row LitFest 2009 logo. ($2 each, too good to pass up)
Even better than buying books were two sessions at the center stage: First, Richard Christiansen interviewed Chicago playwrights Tracy Letts (August Osage County, Superior Doughnuts) and Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphases, Arabian Nights). Not surprisingly, these experts in telling a story through the spoken word were spell-binding. Theater critic Christiansen’s questions were insightful and I came away determined to not only see the plays, but read Christiansen’s book!
Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune interviewed Oak Park’s Elizabeth Berg (latest book – Home Safe) and Liz Strout (Olive Kitteridge). All three were funny and articulate, and the jam-packed room of (mostly) women lined up at the microphone to ask questions. Berg explained that her books were about love, loss, longing, and lasagna. Strout: “What she said. But no lasagna.”
Of course, the best part of my Lit Fest trip was sharing the day with a good friend! Finding a good book is even more fun when someone standing next to you says, “Yeah, I read that, it’s great – get it!” I recommended Three Junes to Anne – couldn’t believe she hadn’t read it yet. We laughed over the cookbook How to Cook Everything. (I really need one titled How to Cook Anything.) We managed to get turned around – all those white tents look alike – and only realized we were going the wrong way when I saw a dessert cookbook with a great big apple pie on the front – “Hey, we’ve been here before, I remember that pie!” And, of course, when you are “booked out,” it’s always good to be with someone who is comfortable pointing out and admiring the various dogs. There were dozens, mostly of the small, city variety.
What I didn’t get into: kids’ stuff, poetry, graphic novels, rare books or signed first editions. But there were plenty of people on hand who did! Art and photography books were there, too, as well as some actual art and actual photography.
Lit Fest is in a great neighborhood, lots of interesting architecture, non-chain restaurants, and of course, a couple of great bookstores – which makes a trip even on a non-Lit Fest weekend worthwhile. This year was the 25th such event… I’ll be there for 26. Hope you will, too!