OKCupid Book Swap at the Strand
On Wednesday, I went to a book swap at the Strand, organized by OKCupid, an evening plan instigated by a library school buddy. Sure, I said, figuring why not? At least it’s literary, and a chance to meet a whole big group of people, rather than sitting perplexedly and awkwardly across the table from one person for an evening. And I’d had fun at Strand Speed Dating.
It was up in the third floor rare book room, which had the same advantages and disadvantages of the speed dating, which also took place. The room is REALLY not designed to host that many people all talking at once. It got oppressively loud, hard to talk to and hear people. The setup was that people would bring books, put them on a table, and then grab books they wanted. Possibly start conversations over the exchange of books. Decent idea. But, getting ready to head over, I had the problem of: If I’m getting rid of a book, I know the book isn’t my type… what will that say about the person who grabs my rejected book? I shrugged, and brought three quite crappy mysteries. Not sure if they had any takers by the end of the evening.
Books I grabbed:
The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett. Because sooner or later, the sheer weight of how-to-write-poetry books on my shelf will guilt me into writing more.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao– Junot Diaz. I’d heard things about it, enough to make me curious, if uncertain that it’s the book for me. But when I was carrying it around, trying to decide, a bunch of people, men and women, said enthusiastic things about the book, or about what a good writer Junot Diaz is, so… why not?
Carry on. Mr. Bowditch– Jean Lee Latham. It’s YA historical fiction, Colonial era by the looks of it. Because I keep telling myself I’ll update the historical fiction blog I started for a class last year.
Play Their Hearts Out– George Dohrman. I don’t know anything about this, except college basketball story by a Pulitzer-winning journalist. I’m a sucker for a well-written sports narrative.
Starting conversations with random strangers has never been tough for me. The fact that the event was organized by OKCupid made me feel self-conscious. The way OKC sets up their events, you’re only allowed to sign up, if there’s someone there who’s a high percentage match for you. But then, off you go to a room full of strangers who may or may not look enough like their blurry photos that you can pick them out in a crowd. And it’s not like you know who’s your match, because in person they’re using their real names, and may or may not reveal their names on the site. I had the thought that Google Glasses would make the whole thing much easier, and also much, much creepier.
And then I shrugged and surrendered to the scrum of new books and new people to talk to, and let them, not their profiles or statistics speak for themselves. Which was still prone to awkward first date conversations here and there, but at least, in a roomful of bookish people, the pressure and awkwardness were distributed better. I found it an entertaining way to make new friends… but kind of exhausting to have that many people all trying to get a sense of one another.
I would probably do another event like this in future, but I wish it could be in a place designed to handle loud cross-talk better.