Monday, June 9, 2008

Books, art, and rain

It was that kind of weekend. The Great Basement Flood of '08 is small potatoes compared with the terrible floods in Indiana and elsewhere in the Midwest; I know that. Still, I had been looking forward to the Printer's Row Book Fair and the 57th Street Art Fair in Chicago for weeks, and I really needed to get away from that basement.

Am I glad I did! On Saturday afternoon, Eli and I picked up my sister and her daughter from Park Ridge and drove down to Hyde Park for the 57th Street Art Fair and a chance to use our 20% member's discount at the 57th Street Bookstore. I have a real soft spot for Hyde Park-- that's where Tony and I met and began our lives together. But I also have fond memories of the Art Fair, not least because that's where we discovered Aaron Macsai, the jeweler who would make our wedding rings. And of course, the bookstores. Just as it began to rain, we hit 57th Street Books, and Powells, a terrific used bookstore right across the street from our old apartment (and place where I spent too much money back in the day).

The next day was even more bookish. Eli, my niece and I (my sister had to work) took the train into the city for the Book Fair. First on my agenda was a talk by Paula J. Giddings, the author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions. Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. Her talk, which was being taped for CSPAN (archived on Book TV), was interesting, particularly her observation that Wells' campaign against lynching went unacknowledged or was marginalized in the writings of white and black activists of her time. Giddings noted that the oversights could be explained, in part, by her reputation as a "difficult" woman. She writes,
Wells was certainly that, even when taking into account the double standard applied to assertive, independent women. During the latter period of her life, Wells was more militant than all of the reform figures mentioned above and publicly crossed swords with them...On the other hand, history books are filled with the names of combative and highly individualistic people...I concluded that Wells's legacy was the victim of those same progressive movements of which she was a part. Predominantly white reform organizations could never subscribe to her views about race; those with race-based agendas, sucha s the NAACP, the NACW, and to a lesser extent the Urban League, could not accommodate her views regarding leadership and class.

After the reading and booksigning, I browsed the bookstalls for a few minutes. It was starting to sprinkle when I popped into the poetry tent to join my niece to hear Maxine Kumin's poetry reading. It wasn't long before the sprinkles turned to torrents, and for once a poetry reading was jam-packed. She gamely read on, if a little rattled, as the wind and rain whipped the sides of the tent, and thunder periodically drowned out her words. At some point, soaking fair organizers ran into the tent and called the reading to an end, saying that they would have to turn off the power and get us to a safer place. As I was leaving the tent, I couldn't help but notice that all of the tents had metal spikes in the middle, surely tempting targets for Zeus's lightening bolts.

There was so much that I missed at the book fair: my pal Beth Finke; Chicago Tribune Young Adult Book Prize recipient S.E. Hinton; Marianne Wiggins, who wrote Evidence of Things Unseen, one of my favorite books ever and more recently The Shadow Catcher, which will probably be one of my favorites when I get around to reading it. But all in all, a great bookish weekend.

On the drive home, we had to detour around a section of I-57. The reason, I found out when I got home, was downed power lines due to a tornado touch-down. Enough already!


Tom said...

Hey Sara

My Mom taught at Hyde Park High School in the early 1940s. One of her students was "The Velvet Fog," Mel Torme.

Go Barak.

caraf said...

I regularly teach a speech by Ida B. Wells on lynching, and it never fails to completely blow students away. They are shocked by the things she said, as one student put it, "fifty years before Malcolm X." A powerful figure. I'm looking forward to reading that book and recommending it to students.

And I'm so, so, SO sorry about your basement! We have 3 sump pumps at the new house - including a backup and a backup for the backup! Yikes.