Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Never Fear, Ladies
by venitha

One of the more difficult things for me to come to terms with in third-world countries is the lack of educational opportunities, particularly for girls. At our Lovina resort, I lounged with a foofy drink and read with interest an article in the Jakarta Post about the efforts in small Bali towns to start libraries from tourists' book donations, pleasure reading evicted from suitcases in favor of wood carvings, sarongs, and Bali Arabica coffee.

Having taken only Singapore library books to Bali myself, I had nothing to leave behind; I actually brought home several additional books, purchased happily for an exorbitant price from an used-book store. This morning in Singapore, as I stacked up my library returns, I thought of the beautiful young girls in Bali and added several of my own books for donation.

Two bus rides later, flushed with the success of tracking down - finally! - some screws for our rooftop chairs, I fed Haruki Murakami and Kiran Desai to a hungry return slot and brightly smiled at a clerk, asking her where I might leave donations. In perfect Singlish, lah, she doused me with an ice water reminder that Singapore is a world away from Bali: the library does not accept donations, and any book "returned" that does not belong to the library will be discarded.

"A library that throws away books." The flames of Fahrenheit 451 reflected in my eyes as I stared hard at this poor woman, who was, after all, only doing her job. I returned the offending and offended Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood, and Anna Quindlen to my plastic sack, reused - horrors! - from Cold Storage.

Never fear, ladies, I assured them as I turned to go. You're too good for this place anyway. I thanked God neither I nor these wonderful writers were born here in Singapore.

By the return slot, however, I paused, then smirked down at James Patterson before tossing him to the wolves.

Carol Shields won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Stone Diaries.
Margaret Atwood won the 2000 Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin.
Anna Quindlen won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her New York Times column, Public and Private.
James Patterson came up with the slogan "Toys R Us Kid" and has probably sold more books than all three women combined.