TRP: New List, or, What Do I Have To Do To Get The T-Shirt?

So, I’m working my way through the list. I know the reviews so far haven’t been stellar. Oh well. It’s July. Give me a break. I’ll try to be more thorough in the future. I think not writing in front of the TV during South Park will help. Here’s what I wanted to find from the library this week:

The Pine Barrens by John McPhee
Ghostgirl #1 by Tonya Hurley
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
We Have Never Been Modern by Bruno Latour
Making Peace by Eugene England
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor
and The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe

Of that list, the library had only one, broke-binding, cigarette stained copy of The Pine Barrens. I’m looking forward to reading that, though. It was recommended by someone who loves it and loves ecocriticism and who knows more about stuff than I do. I anticipate enjoying it.

Since I wasn’t going to waste a trip to the library by getting only one book, I wandered around and picked up these gems as well:
Atonement  by Ian McEwan. I didn’t see the movie, but it was supposed to be pretty awesome, so I figured I’d check out the paperback.
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud. I know I’ve heard good things about this book, but I can’t remember why. The back-of-the-book synopsis makes it sound a little class-indulgent, as in a book that addresses the ennui that only members of a certain class can afford to have. I’m hoping I’m just being judgemental and that it’s actually very good.
a spot of bother by mark haddon. I checked this out because I love, love, love the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, also by this author, and this looked equally promising.
Finally, I also grabbed Healing the Soul of America by Marianne Williamson. This is kind of a risky choice. It might be interesting, or it might be pablum. Either way, I can afford to look at the first chapter. If you don’t see a review of it ever, you’ll know it turned out to be the latter. I don’t have much patience with spiritual writing, mostly because when it’s bad, it’s really really really bad. She’s also written a book called Emma and Mommy Talk to God, which doesn’t bode well. We shall see.

There were a few others I saw that looked good, but I wanted to leave the library with something worth reading in the stacks, so I stuck with this for now. I still have to finish Abarat from last time’s visit. Clive Barker has scared me away from his fiction before, but I am refusing this time. It’s a YA book, for one thing, and Barker has explained before that Books of Blood was really unlike most of the other stuff he’s written. I’m not sure whether to believe him or not, but I guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, so I go to check out, and the librarian notices that a few of these are paperbacks and also that I’m there every week. She suggests I join the summer reading program. I’ll get a free tote, she entices. I’m a sucker for totes, and really, free anything, so I say ok. I’m expecting to need to give them all kinds of information, for there to be some kind of record keeping on their part, perhaps a large poster with people’s names on it and stickers. Nope. Instead, I am handed a flimsy little piece of paper titled “Voyage to Book Island” with a happy pirate child of undetermined gender and race reading a map on it. I am supposed to write down the author and book title and — get this– the amount of time I spend reading each work listed. So now I have two problems: 1. These librarians are too trusting. This would be an easy system to game. I could just check out ten paperbacks (the amount necessary to get a tote bag), write down the information, and bring it back without ever actually reading! How do they know I’m being honest? Shouldn’t there be some sort of test or performance to demonstrate that I really did read? Where’s my incentive/reward for truthfulness? Don’t give me that “The truth is its own reward” nonsense. To dishonest people, a tote bag is a more tangible reward than the satisfied feeling of doing what’s right. This program is unenforceable!

Problem 2: Should I lie about my reading time? I read extremely quickly. I read the last Harry Potter in less than 24 hours, including sleeping. I inhaled The Host  in a short afternoon. Granted, most of what I read has more substance-per-page than either of those, but still. I’m not bragging, I’m not boasting, I’m merely stating facts. My concern is that if I swallow a spot of bother in 2 hours (just kidding! It will take at least four.), and I record 2 hours on my time sheet (because, remember, I’m an honest person), the librarians may think that I’m trying to scam them, a la the system described above. So, would it be better to say that I spent, say, 14 hours on a book when I only spent 4, because 14 might be a more typical amount of time? I guess what I’m asking is, in this case, is it better to be truthful, or to have the appearance of truth? Probably I’ll go with truth just because I’m terrible at lying and math, and I would probably end up saying it took me more time to read than there are hours in a week, but still. All of this could’ve been avoided by having a better system of enforcement to begin with.

THEN the librarian handed me a little bookmark on yellow cardstock. The front of the bookmark featured the tote bag prominently, but the back… oh, the treasures to be had on the back! T-shirts, bath towels, a “waterproof swinging box” (I don’t know what that is, but if it’s free, I want one), a beach ball, frisbee, puzzles, and even more books. I asked the librarian about those things (casually mentioned, is what I did. No need to appear desperate.), and she told me that the rest of those things were for the children’s summer reading program. So basically, if I want a free t-shirt that says “Voyage to Book Island” (which is a ridiculous motto for several reasons, but I’m willing to overlook it because I’m going to get at least a free tote bag out of this thing), I need to either be a child or have one. Really, I guess I’d just need to have access to one. The library says my fetus doesn’t count, even if I do read to him. I don’t know anyone here well enough to borrow their child just long enough to get some free stuff, though I suppose it’s for the best. If kids knew that there were prizes involved in this summer reading thing, they might actually do it, and then I definitely wouldn’t get a t-shirt. It’s unfair all around. I mean, a tote is nice and all, but still. Isn’t that a little bit ageist? Just because I’m over 18, suddenly I have no use for either clothes or frisbees? Alas, if only that were the case. For now, I’ll play their little tote bag game, but come September, we’ll just see who’s too childish for kids prizes…

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