By Lindsay Sowers
English Literature, ’13
“Why?” is not a response I was expecting when I signed up for World Book Night. Blank looks of confusion, an awkward “Thank you!”, sure, or an inquiry into what the book was about. Yet, there we were, facing a gentleman whose only concern was why we were offering him a free copy of Ender’s Game.
This is the first year that World Book Night has been attempted in the U.S. It began in the U.K. last year, and following an incredibly positive response, additional countries have followed suit. While a great deal of people have never heard of this initiative, many techno-savvy booklovers were in the loop, primarily through author Neil Gaiman’s constant on-line publicity.
While it is technically called World Book Night, book givers were assured that as long as distribution was done within the following week, we could choose our moment. Being that I was nervous about how to approach total strangers, I roped my friend Jessica Zehner into helping me on my route. Strength in numbers and all that, but she knows downtown GR better than anyone else I know, so I was less likely to become lost.
The day “officially” began at Rosa Parks Circle, as that was the only location I could seem to come up with, and the initial response was inspiring. Almost immediately, we came across two homeless gentlemen who were thrilled at the idea… all we had to do was mention the words “…in space,” and they both displayed enormous smiles. It was like watching a kid who has just discovered the joy of science fiction.
We spotted two more people at the park and there started the hesitant “interrupting.” The first was a standard enough interaction, “Hi, would you like a free book?” and a description to follow. The second was a younger guy, possibly a college student, who was playing his guitar. Rather than miss out on an opportunity, we directed our spiel at him. At first, he wasn’t going to take one, thinking there was a fee, but after the brief confusion, he agreed to take a copy for his younger sister.
The first four attempts were a success, and THEN a dry spell. I’m still a little baffled at how many people said they weren’t readers. Despite the gorgeous weather, and many people milling about outside, this continued as we made our way towards Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The student who was reading by the water seemed a likely candidate, except that he had already read the book (and loved it). We continued to walk north along the river, and our luck started to change…fishermen! We weren’t going to throw a copy to the guy in his waders, but the ones along the shore seemed pleased for a new read. Just as we were nearing the Fishladder, a family approached us with a few children in tow. We said our bit, described the novel, and just as I started explaining the age-appropriateness of the book, the unanticipated “Why.”
I wasn’t ready for the question, and I don’t remember my answer, it was probably something like “We love books!” accompanied by a geeky smile. The guy’s son was jumping up and down, and thankfully we were allowed to give him a copy. It just sort of threw me off, why should it be that suspicious for two twenty-somethings to go around passing out books? Were they explosive books? Coated with anthrax? I suppose with the Halloween candy safety precautions we’ve grown up with, it was to be expected. Still…
We finished off our day by pestering some teenagers along Michigan St, and gave the last copies to a few kids and one of their parents. My favorite part: ¼ of the books we passed out were to little nerds in training. =]