READER'S GLUT, READER'S GUILT: It seemed like a great idea. Go to the Arizona Historical Society annual Holiday Book Fair and buy a copy of A Shared Space: Folklife in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands by James S. Griffith (Utah State University Press) at the substantial book fair discount. A local treasure, Griffith is head of the UA's Southwest Folklore Center, and his new book continues his engaging chronicles of border folk customs, old, new and metamorphosed.
While searching out Big Jim--not hard to do, given that the man towers over any crowd--you'd wander among the tables, meeting the other authors. In theory, the evening sounded so civilized, so, well, literary. In practice, for you at least, it's so excruciating, so marketplace. Ever go to a craft fair and smile wanly at the maker of a carved coyote while you surreptitiously slide on to the next table without buying a thing? That's what the book fair is like.
Rows and rows of authors sit on metal chairs, piles of unsold books stacked on tables in front of them. This is worse than the craft fair: You'd like to buy every book they've got. There's Richard Morgan Jr., author of A Guide to Historic Missions and Churches of the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands (Adventures in Education, Inc.). This is a beautiful paperback, with full-color photos by Frank Grabas and T. Brian Walter, and just the thing, as Morgan says, to stuff into your daypack when you venture south across la frontera in search of iglesias. You sidle on without buying, but you feel so guilty that a few days later you go to a bookstore and cleverly snap it up at the full price.
Susan Lowell, best-selling children's book author, has a new one, The Boy With Paper Wings (Milkweed Press). You'd like to buy it because her last kids' chapter book, I Am Lavina Cumming (Milkweed) was one of the best of all the many books you've read to your children. You can't, though, because you'd spoil the surprise for your own boy.
Dragged to still another artsy event, he's right here tugging on your coat. So Lowell doesn't make this sale, but she's gracious anyway, even when the tugging sends some chips and salsa flying onto her floor space. Farther along you're relieved to find Evelyn S. Cooper, author of The Buehman Studio: Tucson in Focus, published by the Arizona Historical Society to go along with the current exhibit. You're happy you can tell Cooper you've already bought her book, at full price no less, but you're forced to admit you have not yet cracked its shrink-wrap seal. (Later that night, you guiltily read Cooper's whole essay, an interesting account of a photographing family in the early days of the Old Pueblo.)
You nonchalantly saunter past Eileen Oktavec, whose enticing Answered Prayers: Miracles and Milagros Along the Border (UA Press) has been sitting idle for a month in your "possible review" pile. You catch a glimpse of W. Lane Rogers, but you can't bring yourself to tell him that you've only read the juicy chapter in his Crimes & Misdeeds: Headlines from Arizona's Past (Northland Publishing) that details the shocking story of the murder trial of philanthropist Louise Foucar Marshall (same as the Marshall Foundation) back in 1931. You get caught up in a conversation about, what else, Tucson schools with the amiable Thomas Sheridan, fellow parent and author of the briskly selling Arizona: A History (UA Press), also in your review pile, when you see Big Jim edging out the door.
You rush over and tell him his new book is the only reason you came. He announces cheerfully that in that case he's doubling the price. But he doesn't, you buy it, and you leave solvent. You don't get away, though, before the genial Betty Leavengood, whose fine Tucson Hiking Guide (Pruett Publishing) you've actually bought and read and used, hurries up with an orange balloon giraffe she's just made for your son. She says it's a gimmick for promoting her new Tucson ABC Coloring Book (MP Publishing) but you don't mind a bit. You figure her book would make a great last-minute Christmas gift, just like the rest of the books you've seen this night.
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