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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Got Books in Burned Places

You know it's finally springtime in Brooklyn when a few things start to happen:

1) The cherry blossoms bloom in the Botanic Gardens.
2) Ice cream trucks roam around, playing their incessant siren song and preying on my weakness for rainbow sprinkles.
3) At the first sign of warm weather, elderly men take off their shirts in public and refuse to put them back on.
4) Cheeky young scamps procure a car, smash out its windows, and set it on fire.

Ahhh, the burned-out car. To be honest, I don't exactly know why this phenomenon occurs. (Gang initiation? Insurance scam? Boredom?) To be even more honest, I don't really want to know. But these melted shells of sadness are scattered around the city, reminding us to pay our car insurance bills and steer clear of parks after sunset. Last week, I walked past this fixer-upper on Flatbush Avenue:

That's gonna hurt the Blue Book value, AMIRITE?

As a Brooklyn resident and car owner, the sight pained me a bit (the aforementioned insurance is NOT cheap), but I didn't think it was TOO out-of-the-ordinary until I noticed an item sitting on what was left of the car's rear windshield:

That, my friends, is a copy of American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne (Knopf, 1991) that someone inexplicably placed on the twisted, burning wreck. Shockingly, I'm not an expert on forensic evidence, but I found the this scene to be strange for a few reasons: the book was in good condition and didn't appear to be a stolen or discarded library book (the Central branch of BPL was not far away). There wasn't any baseball bat/crowbar/fire damage done to the book, telling me that it was placed on the car after the car was destroyed. (Hey, look, I AM a forensic expert!)

So, my question is, why would someone do this? Was it meant to be some kind of sacrifice to the Automobile Gods? An offering of mea culpa to the car's former owner in the event that he or she happens to stumble upon it? Did a kid bored with tall tales toss it onto the wreck in an act of defiance? Or was Knopf merely trying a new children's book marketing idea?

We'll never know. I will say this for Brooklyn: you may see a lot of old man teat, but we still keep it classy by using a good ol' fashioned car burnin' as an opportunity to promote literacy. Well done, Brooklyn. Well done.  


  1. This post made my old teats smile.

  2. I have long advocated a law requiring old men to keep their shirts on. After all, if ladies can't let their ladies out, neither should old men.

  3. I'm drafting a letter to my state senator right now.

  4. That is incredibly odd. I'll be racking my brains the rest of the day trying to solve this mystery.

  5. A few years ago, a pair of brilliant teens checked books out from our main library, took them outside, and set them on fire. A patron notified me, I told the security guard, and they grabbed the books before they were consumed. The barcodes were still visible, and from that they pulled the kid's library card number and billed him for damage.

    Justice was served.

  6. It was. It was also pretty ballsy (or stupid), frankly. Apparently they lit the match and took off. I still remember the surreal feeling when I heard about it though.

  7. "Melted Shells of Sadness". Love it! I grew up in the Bronx, and that kind of stuff used to happen there too. When I think of Brooklyn, I think of flattened cats in the gutter. But that wouldn't have been as interesting a topic as a book sacrifice.

  8. Hmmmmm. Note to self: do not live in Brooklyn.

  9. I hope that they will solve this, I'm sure that the owner would like to know as well.