Words stoke imaginations
Cloaked by the night, I crept. With a handmade shelf underarm and a backpack bloated by the words of writers from Vikram Chandra to Bill Bryson, I set out on a ninja-like mission to deliver books to the local telephone box. The Easter book Bunny. Or so I imagined.
Upcycling disused telephone boxes into mini book swap libraries is my favourite of recent community takeovers. Stemming from BT’s ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme – which offered communities the chance to buy their local telephone box for a pound– communities from all over the country have been reclaiming the big red boxes and stuffing them full with books. If you don’t live near a library or it’s succumbed to yet more government closures, and you’re not in the habit of buying a hoard of books every time you pass a charity shop (like me), then it’s a game-changer. So, I decided to get Feeding. Popping down the road to the big red box and picking out a novel left by who-knows-who just for you, what could be better? Chocolate, perhaps.
I had visions of young families popping by after school – children swapping their Biff and Chip for the latest adventures of Tin Tin and adults rediscovering their wordy wanderlust amid the pages of The Shipping News.
I was in the end, not the Easter Book Bunny at all, but the vegan, t-total, cat fanatical auntie who gave you books for Easter when all you wanted was chocolate.
But then something tragic happened. Heading home a few days after the dead drop, I witnessed the aftermath of a literature massacre. A paperback Red Earth and Pouring Rain strewn across the tarmac and quivering in the gust as it was struck through the spine by car upon car, releasing ever-more pages into the air. Stop! I sped over to the book, catching pages as they danced while other cars passed, the drivers rightly questioning my state of mind. A ripped cover, charred corners and missing words. The book had not fared well through its ordeal.
Perhaps I was naïve. I was in the end, not the Easter Book Bunny at all, but the vegan, t-total, cat fanatical auntie who gave you books for Easter when all you wanted was chocolate. Maybe next time I’ll fill it with chocolate bars. Or maybe a map for a chocolate treasure hunt, which involves deciphering codes that can only be found in the scorched lines of Red Earth and Pouring Rain.
From there I made a point not to tidy the library. This was a community experiment after all, and I wondered what would happen to my tortured library. A few days passed and with dwindling optimism I checked back. To my pessimism’s surprise, I discovered the books realigned and restocked. Not a burn or tear in sight. And as days went by, new books arrived in the place of old and recommendations were left for the next Book Box borrower.
So, this Feed has been quite the drama, I’m sure you’ll agree. But thankfully I’ve been left with a rekindled faith in community connectedness and I’m more than ever assured that words, whether read or heard, can bridge gaps. Plus, I’m all for freedom of expression – and perhaps the book burning was more of a philosophical/political statement than the result of boredom and lighters. I suppose we’ll never know.