Thursday, March 27, 2008

Egghead Likes his Booky-Wooks

Blog? What blog?

Za viewers, sain bain uu? Sonin saihan u bain? It has been super duper long, and there’s no guaranteeing this will be kept up. Hiatus of eight months between postings are presumably enough to turn the interest of even the most committed blogophile. So why then post now?

Because of the depth of your pockets, you gullible McFlys. Because many of you looked unflinchingly into your pocketbooks in 2007 and fished out a florin to fling my way. So I thought it only fitting that you know how all those ducats were expended.

As you’ll recall, the idea was books. With your fundage, we would buy books and fling them about the steppe like so many magazines on a coffee table. And this is exactly what has happened. ADRA cut a deal with a publisher to buy in bulk, and we distribute packages of 70 books aimed at primary, middle school and secondary to deserving kiddies across the land. To date, we’ve distributed 4,500 books to 30 schools. Thanks on you for this.

One of the key attractions of this project (aside from its general freeness to the recipient) has been the quality of the books. The publisher we deal with as the Mongolian language rights to Dorling Kindersley, global publisher for pre-teen glossies like “Inside the Duodenum”, “Aeronautics! In Colour!” and a host of other fine titles. Given that available printed material in the Mongolian countryside tends to be dour antiquated newsprint biographies of Socrates or Kepler, (or for the gents, Russian bootleg James Hadley Chase), books with actual covers and pages within have been a huge smash hit.

Even by my usual cynical standards, this project is really quite a winner. The one snag we’re repeatedly come across is a fearsome scourge who prowl the steppe, peering over half moons in search of defilers of the Word. Armed with the Date Stamp of Fury and cat-like reflexes, this shifty cabal swoop on said booky-wooks like steppe eagles on carrion, carrying their treasures off to a distant eyrie called the Library Closet. Viewers, meet the Librarians. Quiver at their organizational skills.

Luckily, some of our team are old hands in dealing with these Samurai of the Stacks, and have ways of neutralizing their powers of Acquisition. Half of the team stand downwind in plain view, offering a sachet of pamphlets, chap books, penny dreadfuls and Penguin Classics. With their noses and bottoms twitching expectantly, the librarians make their way towards the offering, leaving the schoolchildren unattended and free to learn on their own. At this point, Team B (for Book!) leap from the behind the stationery cabinet and before you can say Dewey Decimal System (Doowiigin Arronii Sistem, viewers), magnificent cascades of astronauts, whales, combustion engines and botany for beginners are making rainbows in the brain. Both parties have their booty, and honour is upheld.

One has to have some understanding for the Librarians. They haven’t had new books since ever in their careers. In some cases, despite being librarians, they have never had books to attend to- a Borghesian jape on the page, but pretty depressing if that’s what you have to get out of bed for. So suddenly being given a stash of books makes our stewards of the shelves take the long view and squirrel those fellows away: those books will have to last the next fifteen-odd years. No point creasing the spines now.

Handing over two sets per venue seems to do the trick. As further incentive, we have told the school admins and librarians than when next we visit, if their set are still clean, we can provide no more. If, however, them volumes are dogeared, fingerprinted, and have Davaa Loves Bold and Wrestlers Do it in the Ring written in the margin, then more books will be provided, as proof exists that the books have gone public.

And so this is where you come in. Those of you wishing to sneak away before the credits roll, now would be a good time.

ADRA’s going to try to continue this project for as long as it can. So far, about five grand’s been spent, and there’s another thousand getting spent this week, and after that the shelves are bare. If more money comes in, more will be spent, and more books will wend their way to the desert and the mountains. The slight sense of urgency to all this is that the deal we have with the publisher, while not exactly un-kosher, is not exactly formal neither. Terms and conditions could change, and if they did the value for money thing would be much less rosy than it is presently: we’re getting books with seven or eight dollar list prices for under two bucks.

So what I’m saying is, if you’ve ever needed a book and not had one, then try out some literary empathy and help out some kiddies who face that predicament every day. It won’t save anyone’s life, but it will make someone’s mind a bit more sparkly.

If this interests you, let me know and I’ll let you know how/where to send the necessary. Previous method should still work as well (see blog passim). If you remain uninterested, let me know what additional incentive I can throw in to sweeten the deal. Camel wool products a specialty.

Mash ikh bayarlaa,