Monday, April 30, 2007

chicago reading

Once I get through the customs and security at Chicago (shoes, coat, belt off), I find myself, having rushed prematurely, with space to explore. I'm dog-tired, but the aforementioned exhileration, until now dormant under the surface, springs joyfully to life and I dash down from the landing gate, having calculated I have thirty minutes spare, to Chicago airport's book shop. I bury my nose (metaphorically, just) in the strange scented, differently weighted books of America. First I rush to the fiction stand, to examine my favourite books in new, unseen editions, and then I spring back to the bestseller table.

I've heard various things about the US book market, and won't for a moment, on the strength of a couple of visits, years apart, pretend to know anything much about it. Friends from the US have told me how astonished they are, on British public transport, to see so many people reading books. On the other hand, standing in this Illinois bookshop, I'm taken aback by the quality of the top ten on offer; serious fiction by Philip Roth, books by Democratic party hopefuls and several tracts on the Middle East and Government policy. The new book by Dave Eggers, which is about a refugee from the Sudanese war, which I excitedly buy, is placed bang in the centre of the new releases table.

My heart thudding with excitement, relaxing in and exploring this enthralling shop, I forget completely my extreme tiredness and lose myself in a flurry of pro-Americanism, deciding that I can't live in England any longer and must move to the States forthwith. I rush back to the gate, book in hand, and throw myself onto a seat at a little bar sat beside it. A sign warns me that all customers will be ID'd, which send me into a jetlagged panic of amusement. The barman comes over, and, wanting to look dead adult, I splutter "A Bugweiser, please'.

He looks stern. "A what?"

"A Busweiger", I reply, all nerves and tiredness. I show him, pre-emptively, my ID.

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