Someone told me a few years back that my zip code, 11215, has the most writers per capita in the U.S. (I assume this is determined by how many people list “writing” as primary occupation on their taxes.)
So when I registered as a giver for World Book Night, knowing the goal was to distribute free books to people in one’s community who for whatever reason haven’t read one in a while (if ever), I assumed south Park Slope was probably not the best location.
Which is to say: I was being lazy. Naturally I gravitate to the most “bookish” spots in the neighborhood – I appreciate that I can debate The Pale King with the manager at Sidecar – and World Book Night simply forced me out of my comfort zone. I grabbed my twenty copies of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and started walking.
I pass the Park Slope women’s shelter twice a week or so, and in four years I’ve never ventured inside. I assumed there would be a receptionist I could approach and enlist in handing out a few copies. Instead I opened the large metal doors to find a metal detector, x-ray machine for bags and purses, and a security guard with a skeptical eye. I explained my intentions and asked if I could hand out a few books. It was clear I wasn’t allowed past the metal detector.
He replied they already had a library; only one person had visited it in the past year. “This isn’t a crowd who likes to read.” I could leave a couple copies by the door if I wanted, but most likely they’d be tossed out.
He had a good point. Why should I leave books when they don’t already browse the ones at hand? When I turned to leave, a group of women returning from a smoke break asked me why I was visiting. I explained. After thirty seconds, every one of them took a copy.
I dropped off another two at the Roots cafe lending library, and another three for the employees at my local laundromat. (The manager asked for an extra copy for her coworker, who was out sick.)
Down to one copy. I remembered my bartender friend at Commonwealth complaining she didn’t read books much anymore. (Couldn’t find anything worthwhile.) I stopped in, but she wasn’t working Monday night. When I told the bartender on duty about the program, he asked to see the book.
“Do you think anyone here might like this?” I asked.
“Yeah, I would.” He replied. “Can I have it?”
“Of course! That’s the whole idea.”
He thanked me and asked if he could buy me a drink.