book fairs

There is a lot going on at Rabelais right now.  My head is swirling with it all.  Some of it we will be sharing in upcoming weeks.  But the thing that is freshest, just picked, if you will, is the book fair.

I know many of you subscribe to this list because you are interested in food first, books second. Getting to food through books is habitual for you.  But perhaps you take the books part a little for granted?  If you have spent any time in the store you know our opinions about the electronic world threatening to swallow up all the print in the universe.  Yes, I am being dramatic, but stay with me. In this day of iphone/blackberry/kindle many of us get cross-eyed looking at all that wavering type. Cookbooks still stand as an oasis in that shimmering world.  We have hope that they will keep us tied to the printed word. As the book moves further from the daily experience it becomes more and more fetishized.  Cookbooks serve that function particularly well. Books as objects (beyond their informational value) can never be replaced by an electronic gadget.  And this is where I get to the book fair.

Have you ever been to one? They are like books themselves: many pages, some worn and creased (the good parts?), others pristine (a passage no one really wants to read); covered by boards that may have seen better days, show signs of damp palms, a coffee ring; perhaps the dust jacket is still extant (hallelujah) but shows a small tear.  All this is present in the booths, the exhibitors and the potential customers cruising around the room. Here there is a jumbled mish-mash of a display with paper everywhere and a rumpled gatekeeper.  There you find an immaculate booth with well-lighted cases offering up carefully arranged artifacts.  But everywhere you find books.  Real books.  Paper and board. A light sheen of dust. The aroma of rag and ink. And on the opening of the doors for the first day of the show, you have excitement. A great rush from the door, a minor rock show moment.  What discovery is in that room? A 19th Century Jewish manuscript book on meat preparation.  An album of Alpine wildflowers carefully annotated in Latin.  This room of paper yields many unknown treasures for those willing to walk its aisles.

I know it may seem a stretch to some, but to others of you,  it resonates.  You are intrigued. You may check your email on that electronic device, but the lure of paper is strong. Your shelves are full, and there is always room for more. These shiny new books we sell here in the store will grow a patina with age and use, and you will love them even more. Book fairs are a room, a large one at that, full of just such objects.

Samantha

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