Singapore Adventure

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Spreading the Word
by venitha

With amusement, our fellow expats have warned us to expect plummeting movie standards. Desperation for a glimpse of home and a familiar accent will make even Bewitched seem Oscar-worthy. Or at least worthy of several hours out of a sweltering Singaporean Saturday afternoon. But movies just aren't my speed, and the only one we've seen here to date, while phenomenal by any standard, was hardly a happy departure from reality.

No, my escape is, was, and always will be books.

So it came as a very unpleasant surprise that the library here, organized in some unrecognizable manner, could reduce me to wanting the run the aisles shouting "Help! Help!" just like Fort Collins' thoroughly detested and thankfully short-lived Builder's Square store. Laughter upon spotting this poster saved me from such behavior at the Toa Payoh library. That darn mocking bird. Let's kill him, shall we?

Thankfully, I shipped enough of my own books, amassed through years of poring contentedly through used book sales, that I'm not at the mercy of the Singaporean library system's incoherent order. And while reading my books provides both a pleasant escape from the reality of Singapore and a useful distraction on the bus and the MRT, the real enjoyment I'm getting from them has nothing to do with reading. It's what I'm doing with my books after I read them that I love: I'm spreading the word, so to speak, leaving each book I finish somewhere different and unexpected.

Lance Armstrong now pedals the shelves of the Orchard library. Pam Houston's cowboys now romance visitors to Turi Beach. Dennis Lehane now thrills Melaka. I swapped Katherine Dunn for a Thai phrase book at a used book store. I think I got the better deal.

I surrendured James Clavell to the arms of Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, and the like, perfuming the shelves of the hub at our service apartment. I hope he can forgive me. I wrested Paul Theroux from their embrace and brought him with me here, to the Pasadena. I hope he can forgive me as well.

And I can only wonder where my travels will take him.