Yesterday’s “Today” show featured Jennifer Lawrence, the star of “The Hunger Games,” the movie version of the latest series of books for adults who like to read kids’ books. I was all set to scoff until they started showing clips of the film, where kids have to do battle on television in a dystopian future. The story seemed so compelling that I wanted to read the book and be that guy who tells everyone that the book was better than the movie.
My library had no copies on the shelf, and when I tried to put myself on the wait list the librarian led me into a room in the back, where, she said, I would “have an opportunity to borrow the book.”
In this room were 11 other library patrons. We were told that there was one copy of “The Hunger Games” and that we were going to have to compete for it in a series of events. I wanted to ask why they had jettisoned the usual wait list procedure, but a bell rang and each of the other contestants picked up a bow and arrow. I picked up mine, and was a little worried because the last arrow I shot had been four inches thick and had “Nerf” printed along its side. But when everyone started running into the main part of the library, my animal nature took over.
Like every time I go into the library, even the times when I’m not doing battle, I headed to the fiction section. I always like to look at the classic novels that I haven’t read, and imagine that I’ve read them. An arrow came flying at me, but I blocked it with a copy of “Ulysses.” Then I fell and rolled over to some Cormac McCarthy books, and was so entranced by the lyrical descriptions of the west that I forgot about the people trying to kill me. I guess they forgot about me too, because a little later I was told to return to the room in the back. Now there were only six of us, all trying not to look at the pile of bloodied library cards in the corner.
The next event involved a pool of raging water in the east wing of the building. I never noticed this before, but now I understood why the budget vote had been so close. We were told that the first three people to swim to the other side would be lifted out of the pool, while the remaining three…the librarian held her nose and pantomimed sinking. That bell rang again and we all jumped in the water. Luckily for me, my wife doesn’t let me wear shoes in the house, and so I wear loafers for convenient de-shoeing. These loafers I easily kicked off before getting in the pool, and was the first to reach the other side while the others were delayed untying their laces.
For the final event I was placed at a round table with the other two remaining contestants. We were each handed a copy of “Ivanhoe,” and told that the first one to finish reading it would be the victor. The previous trials had been nothing. “I don’t think I can do it,” said one of the others, a middle-aged man. The woman to his right kept shaking her head, tears coming to her eyes. I, too, thought I would die before I got through this book again. And then I remembered how my English teacher schooled me on it after I proved to have not read it very closely. I could just pretend to read it. This I did, and passed the quiz at the end with flying colors. The other two contestants barely even tried.
I came home with my copy of “The Hunger Games.” As I kicked off my shoes in the doorway, my wife asked me if she could read it after I was done. I told her that I was probably just going to see the movie.