August 27, 2008

While You're Thinking About That, Think About This

Mr. Bookman, the library cop, was one of my favorite characters from Seinfeld. As played by Philip Baker Hall, Mr. Bookman had a clipped, Joe Friday-esque delivery that was comic gold.

The following dialogue concerning Jerry Seinfeld's overdue (by 20 years!) copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer still makes me smile.
Bookman: You took this book out in 1971.
Seinfeld: Yes, and I returned it in 1971.
Bookman: Yeah, '71… Bad year for libraries. Bad year for America. Hippies burning library cards, Abby Hoffman telling everybody to steal books. I don’t judge a man by the length of his hair or the kind of music he listens to. Rock was never my bag. [jabbing his finger at Jerry] But you put on a pair of shoes when you walk into the New York Public Library, fella!
Think it's a joke? Think again, fella. Heidi Dalibor of Grafton, Wisconsin, was arrested earlier this month after failing to return two library books. And she was only one year overdue!

But hey, Dalibor was almost asking for trouble. She received four library letters, two phone calls, two official notices, one citation from the police, and a court appearance notice. But she ignored them all.

What was Dalibor thinking? “I said, ‘What could they possibly do? They can’t arrest me for this.’ I was wrong.”

Her wrong-ness and sunny personality led to a strangely cheerful mug shot. To her credit, Dalibor was cool about her overdue infamy. She paid her $170 fine and told reporters, “I completely take responsibility for not paying my fine on time and not going to my court date.”

Good on her. Still, Dalibor isn’t planning on returning the books. Hey, she's paid for them now.

As for the two books that caused all this trouble, they were Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and Janet Fitch’s White Oleander. Hmmm. If you had to go to jail to read a book (or two), what titles would be worthy? (David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn came to mind for me.)

While you're thinking about that, here's a Bookman clip:

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