I felt like one of those women handing out cigarettes in yesteryear. If you’re too young to remember them, you may have seen pictures. Except I have a couple years on most of those women, o.k. all of them, and rather than a sexy outfit, I chose a heavy down jacket over which I wore a sandwich-board sign, and I use the term loosely, made with a reflective vest covered over with a couple World Book Night flers in clear page protectors. I don’t know if it helped, but I wasn’t too cold last night, given the drizzle and chill.
Last year when I was a “giver” at World Book Night, I chose a spot across from the Central Square T station in Cambridge, Mass., and found it difficult to break down people’s resistance to taking a book. They thought I was trying to foist a Bible on them, or maybe I was part of some cult. This year I was determined that it shouldn’t be so hard to give away 20 books. To get in the mood I used the pre-WBN kick off event at the Cambridge Public Library with Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language of Flowers), Lisa Genova (Still Alice), and Neil Gaiman (Good Omens, with Terry Pratchett) as a pep rally. It certainly got the high school students in the row next to me wound up. They wanted to sign up then and there to be givers. So did a former educator who had read Still Alice in her book group and had never heard of WBN.
I was especially pleased to get to hear Diffenbaugh, since I had chosen her novel to give away. A debut novel by a local author seemed like an easier sell than many of the more “classic” books on last year’s list. Plus I had one other trick for getting people to take my books. Since her book is so interconnected with flowers, I decided to buy 20 carnations from Brattle Florist, the same florist shop in her acknowledgments, to handout with each book. That was before I learned from Gaiman’s talk that April 23 marks Cervantes’s death and in Spain men give women a rose, and women give them a book on that day. The first Book Day, as it is known, was held on Cervantes’s birthday (October 7) in 1926, then moved to April in 1930.
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