Fear and Loathing at the Annual Book Fair

2 May

Some things just go together naturally, for example: spaghetti and meat balls, beer and pretzels, or baseball and sunflower seeds. Let me tell you what doesn’t go together well: hangovers and book fairs. They shouldn’t even be in the same sentence or allowed on the same block. The idea of sluggishly moving around after killing brain cells while looking for a way to increase brain power is a contrast, which unlike positive and negative ions, does not attract.

It wasn’t the idea to go to the book fair hungover, but options were limited, I suppose. I wanted to go to the fair yesterday, but wound up at a different one altogether, and last night was a friend’s birthday party at a bar, from which I didn’t get home until about 6 am. The morning and afternoon were so beautiful and sunny that I couldn’t just stay indoors. I felt too guilty, especially knowing that these nice days are running out. So I amped up some strength after a sandwich and got in line with the thousands of other people outside my door heading to the Rural Society, just a few blocks away.

Passing by my apartment building I thought that I lived here but wasn’t home right now. If I wasn’t in line for a book fair I’d be home right now. Fair enough. I wanted to go with someone else but no one was around, so I quietly waited in line as families around me spoke to each other. By the time we got to the gate the father told his son it was 30 minutes from the time we got in line. Not bad, all things considered. It was $15 pesos to get in, and it was my first time going to the Rural Society, which I can see from my balcony.

The Rural Society traditionally held cattle and horse events, and while they still do, they have also branched out into other expositions. This is the 36th Annual World Book Fair, which contains books from all over the world (mostly in Spanish), as well as other products related to reading. Authors occasionally come and you can meet them, and other presentations are given. Once inside I was lost among the crowds of pushing people and stall after stall with books. I had no idea where I could find one I liked.

The idea is you pay to get in and then books inside are cheaper than in a bookstore, but a lot of the bookstores have stalls there, and it seems to me that they charge the same amount. This even, which lasts from April 22-May 10, runs most days of the week, but the larger crowds come on the weekends, for obvious reasons. First I listened about some book fair in Frankfurt this year with translated books, and then moved on to check out as many booths as possible. But I had no idea where to go, and there was so much to see.

The crowds were fairly obnoxious, vying for space to see what cheap books were available. There were standard deals of 1 book for $10, $15, or 3 for $30, etc. I was interested in getting one book in Spanish and one in English. After maybe a half hour I finally found a book in Spanish that I was interested in and was cheap. Next I walked around looking for English books, but much to my chagrin couldn’t find them.

I did find the U.S. Embassy stall which just had a few books, mostly the “This is Why the United States is a Good Country” kind of books, so nothing I was looking for. I was all set to leave and finally I found a place with all English books. Just for the hell of it I opened up a grammar book and on the first random page I flipped to I found a badly translated sentence. I checked the price of a book and it was $90 pesos, and they were all about that price. No way was I walking out of there with an English book. I was hungry, thirsty, and tired. It was time to go, and by this point the beautiful sunny day had turned to overcast and chilly. Quittin’ time for the book fair. Until next year, perhaps.

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