I used to approach bookstores like married men approach strip clubs.
I mean, a look can’t hurt, right? I know what I’ve got waiting for me at home. It’s good, you know? A good, giving collection. I don’t need to be here. I’ve got more than enough to keep me happy at home.
But just a look inside the door. Wander in, just glance at the spectacle. I don’t need to be here. But I might as well see what they put on display.
But, as long as I’m here, I might as well take a peek. Just peel back that tempting cover that revealed just enough to entice. Just a look, right? Just a glance at the pages. Just one private dance.
Then it’s four hours later. You stumble home, all your cash is gone and you’re concealing a mysterious bulge in your pocket. As you try to creep in the door, a light flips on behind you.
“Where have you been?” a woman’s voice says. “Were you buying more books?”
“No, dear!” you instinctively yip, a mass market paperback history of the cod industry burning hot guilt down your pants leg. “I was fucking prostitutes.”
In my mid-30s dotage, however, I’ve learned some restraint, plus I’m living with a woman who double-clutches nonfiction at an alarming rate. (Her most recent read was a history of poisonings, which I find… worrisome.)
Books aren’t as much of a problem as they used to be, I tell myself. But like that married man who happened to find himself at the Admiral, I couldn’t quite explain why I was at City Lit in Logan Square.
The bookstore was beautiful. Most are, whether they’re haphazard heaps of tomes to the ceiling or, like City Lit, lovingly curated, bright, airy storefronts.
As I walked among the aisles, glancing at the tempting covers (“Just one dance!”), I noticed a crowd gathering. I noticed a table of wine and beer. I noticed rows of folding chairs aimed at a small rostrum.
There was a reading.
Live lit is the thing right now. Stories and poems read to each other at venues like The Moth, The Paper Machete, Write Club, Story Lab, Story Club, Story Club South Side, The Stoop, That’s All She Wrote and a thousand other spots where people spend a night, afternoon or hour just talking to each other, sharing the human experience through words.
Ha, I thought. Who would get in that game? Who would be such a fool to try to join that over-saturated world of live lit storytelling?
If you head to the MCA tomorrow, you can see a performance of the reading series Anthology of Chicago and I run.
- Mayor 1% author Kari Lydersen on Pilsen
- American Skin author Don De Grazia on Wrigleyville
- Vocal artist and poet Oni Woods on Bronzeville
- Journalist Paul Dailing (me!) on Little Village
- And writer and actress Irene Marquette on Andersonville
But, in honor of the artsy space, Anthology of Chicago’s Rachel Hyman and I decided to give a little twist in the form of illustrators. The writers will read in front of a projected illustration of their work. That’s Chester Elvin for Kari, Dmitry Samarov for Don, Emily Torem for Oni, Jamie Hibdon for me and Rachel Foss for Irene. You can get a quick taste of some of the art on the MCA’s Facebook page.
There’s always going to be a lot of competition in the world of words, from the glut of live lit storytelling readings to the tempting little numbers on display at City Lit.
Maybe our words won’t be the ones that change the world, but we’ll be glad to share them with you if you come on by tomorrow afternoon.
More stories about bookstores:
- Ravenswood Used Books
- Open Books
- N. Fagin’s Books
- O’Gara and Wilson, Ltd. Antiquarian Booksellers
- Powell’s Book Store
- G-Mart Comics