Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another day, another author event (and another book, of course!)

For whatever reason, this week has been heavy on author events.

It started last Sunday. The Chicagoans among you know that many of us (recent surveys suggest as many as 80% of us) have never been reconciled to Macy's having changed the name of Marshall Field's. Every year at this time, there is a demonstration under the clock at the State Street store.

This year, following the protest, there was a book discussion and signing at the State Street Borders, just down the block, with Gayle Soucek, the author of Marshall Field's: the Store that Helped Build Chicago. There was much reminiscing about the glory that was Field's, as most of the people there were either former employees, former customers, or both. Soucek is currently writing a book about Chicago catastrophes, and she commented that it was noteworthy how involved Field's was (the store and the man) in helping during a civic crisis. She also said that her publisher told her not to "bash" Macy's in the book, but put a blurb on the back highlighting the controversy!

On Monday, I blew off my Italian class to go hear Tim Gunn talk about his new book, Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making it Work. This was at the Michigan Avenue Borders, and, boy, I think they are going to lose some customers over the way the event was organized, or, should I say, not organized. They were handing out wristbands starting at 9:00 a.m., with several different colors, only the first two of which got seats. But when people arrived, they lined up in order of arrival, so that when the first two colors were called to be seated, people dashed madly from all over. When the signing started, they gathered the various color groups in different parts of the store, but the employees who were doing so couldn't be heard, so people wandered about haphazardly. There was a huge long wait, but at least we had books to read!

Gunn, of course, was charming, an oasis of graciousness and calm amidst the chaos and confusion. He really must have been exhausted, because he was signing books for a good three hours or more, way past the time the store normally closes. It's nice to see someone on a show like Project Runway trying to raise the level of discourse and maintaining decent grammatical and vocabular standards. Besides, he collects architectural pop-ups, so he clearly has good taste.

On Thursday, it was Audrey Niffenegger at the Harold Washington Library Center, talking about her new graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile. Technical difficulties prevented her from showing the photographs that she took, from which the drawings were derived, but she read the short story which was the basis for the Guardian serial which was the basis for the book. This is the first installment of a work to be called The Library; I'm definitely looking forward to the rest.

Today I went to the 57th Street Children's Book Fair, and staffed the Friends of the Library table for a couple of hours. There were quite a few authors in evidence, but I didn't get any, though I was tempted by The Sixty-Eight Rooms, by Marianne Malone, about strange doings in the Art Institute of Chicago's Thorne Rooms.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding

Miss Manners Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, by Judith Martin & Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners would definitely not approve of the most recent wedding invitation I received.  Let me count the ways.  It was addressed to me "and guest".  It's a rather over-the-top tri-fold shiny invite with a photograph of the happy couple, all tied up with a ribbon.  The enclosure, in addition to providing a map of the location and information on hotels (good), listed two registry websites, one of which was to donate to the honeymoon, and the URL to the couple's wedding website (bad).

From general principles  ("value dignity above self-glorification", "choose guests through bonds of family and friendship and try to arrange matters so these people will enjoy themselves", "do not live beyond your means and do not expect to be reimbursed by the guests") to specifics of the wording of invitations in a variety of situations and on to troubleshooting, Miss Manners and her equally mannerly daughter have provided an essential guide to creating a wedding that will be enjoyed, and remembered fondly, by all.  Not only that, but these principles have been tested, and not found wanting, first by Miss Manners at her own wedding, ten years ago at her son's, and most recently at that of her daughter and co-author.

The style of the book will be familiar to admirers of Miss Manners' column and previous books, combining narrative with responses to letters she has received.  Much of the advice she gives is nothing she has not addressed before, but her usual witty style keeps it fresh, and it all bears repeating.  It is, unfortunately, obvious that it is still needed.  It is hard to decide which money grab mentioned was more astonishing, the bride who wanted people to pay for the costs of her adopting a child or the one who included her bank deposit slip in the invitation!  

The minute you hear that someone you know is engaged, give her this book (note, however, that "engagement presents" are not obligatory!) and hope it is not too late for her to heed Miss Manners' words:  "Behaving well has its own rewards."