June 10, 2006

2006 Printer’s Row Book Fair

Reading is an act of communion, and the transaction that occurs between author and reader is nothing less than holy. So, for me, the Printer’s Row Book Fair always feels a bit like Sunday Mass – only without the guilt and shame.

For me, the book fair is about renewing friendships. This year, I strolled through the crowded stacks and sat beneath the flapping tents with Robert N. Georgalas, Joanne Pepe, Robert Charles and Jack Clements. This year, we also gathered in rows of chairs to behold a few of our modern prophets: E.L. Doctorow, Erica Jong, Cris Burks and John Updike.

The Printer’s Row Book Fair also is an opportunity to visit one of Chicago’s most welcoming bookstores: Sandmeyer’s, on south Dearborn Street. When I daydream of owning my own bookstore it always looks and feels like Sandmeyer’s.

It’s true that Sandmeyer’s hushed ambience and creaking wood floors remind me of the church I was raised in: Saint Joseph the Worker. But in the pews at St. Joe’s, one found a single hymnal and no other books. Not even a bible. At Sandmeyer’s, when you look up and down the rows of neatly shelved and displayed books, you realize this is a house that respects and worships knowledge – and the parishioners congregating here have more questions than answers.


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