First of all, I need to announce the winner of the giveaway.  Not many people participated (too difficult, I wonder? All the answers were on this blog though) and I decided to include the participants who had at least one good answer.  The answers were: 1- Negotiating with the Dead; 2- Nell; 3- Payback.  Congratulations to Shane for winning!

"Proxy Atwood"

After only a few hours sleep, I got up to start my World Book Night day of giving books away.  I was quite tired, but the excitement took over!  A while ago, Margaret Atwood suggested that those who would be giving The Blind Assassin should be “proxy her” and should thus dress like her.  The tips she gave included: wearing black, a hat, a pink scarf, flat shoes, a grey-hair wig.  I thought it would be funny to take this challenge up and created my own version, a version inspired from these tips and photos of Margaret Atwood in the 60s-70s. 

The books were all organised and ready to be loaded in the car.  After getting a picnic ready, I hit the road with my housemate.

The books are set to go

First, we went around the local area, leaving books outside friends’ houses and in beautiful spots where I like to read or go for a walk.  We also met a group of local women on Garryvoe strand who had been gathering to celebrate International Women’s Day.  It was a pleasure to give them the books and they seemed to really appreciate.

Rostellan, my favorite reading spot in East Cork

Our next stop was Cork airport and we were less successful there.  First of all, nobody was queueing to get at the departure gate.  I stood there for a little while and managed to put one of books in the hands of a woman on her way and to wish her a happy reading of this favourite of mine.  She seemed a bit confused, but turned around before disappearing and smiled.  I then gave up waiting, left one in the café and went downstairs in the check-in area.  After offering a book twice unsuccessfully (to a man who just said he wasn’t looking for something to read and a woman who plainly refused the book), I was a bit disheartened and abandoned it on a bench outside the airport.

An empty airport, but this lady will fly with The Blind Assassin

Next, we went to UCC, where I work and study.  I had set an hour to meet my students near the room where I teach them.  None of them showed up.  I wasn’t that surprised, but still a bit disappointed.  Then, a lady walking her dogs passed in front of us and I asked her if she liked reading; she seemed really happy to receive a book and my spirits were up again.  We abandoned a few books on the Quad.  As we were moving away, I saw a young fellow passing one of them and hesitating a while before walking away bare-handed.  I gave one to a girl sitting outside, she did not seem that happy to receive the book but still took it and said she would give it a try or pass it to someone else.  I also left some in the room for postgraduate students and I’m sure they will end up in good hands on Monday.  As we were leaving UCC, we passed in front of the gate where I had left a copy and saw a girl looking at the book.  She was obviously hesitating to pick it up (despite the post-it saying “Free book.  Pick me up!”).  We could see her walking back and up again; she finally went through the gate, but turned around and I wonder if she took it…

UCC gate; did the girl finally pick it up after hesitating for so long?

Finally, we went in the city centre and gave or abandoned the rest of the books.  It wasn’t always easy to actually hand them and a few people refused the books.  I think people didn’t really understand what was going on, despite my explanations, while others were put off by the size of The Blind Assassin.

Leaving books randomly in Cork

At some stage, we went outside Waterstones thinking we would give a copy to someone coming out of the shop.  Surely, if they were in a bookshop, they’d like a free book.  A group of three people came out and would not take the book; we were stunned!  This same book then ended up in the hands of two ladies out shopping; at first, they didn’t want it because of its size, but one of them had heard about World Book Night on the radio.  We had a nice chat with them and they left with the book.

Another favourite was when we left one copy outside the English market and sat a bit further to eat our lunch.  A group of four people passed the book and stopped to pick it up.  We could see them looking inside the book, chatting while making animated gestures and finally leaving with it.  I really loved this moment; it was thrilling!

At some stage, we had to ask our direction to a young couple sitting by the river.  They were really helpful.  We walked away and then I remembered the book and we went back to give them a copy.  It was lovely to see how he picked up the book so delicately and looked genuinely happy, thanking us for the gift.

The bus station was a bit tricky.  There were people on every bench, so I could not really leave a copy like that and I could not find any friendly faces either.  Then, I saw this woman looking at us and we thought “she’s the one!”.  I went up to her but would not take the book.  As we were leaving, a girl was getting on a bus; she seemed friendly and I did my “Happy World Book night” entrance.  She took it and said she’ll give it a try as it was free.

At the bus station; more difficult than I would have thought

We also went to pick up some tickets at the theatre and the girl who often looks after me was there, so I was able to thank her and offer her a book.  She seemed genuinely happy.

To finish our tour, we went for a well-deserved pint in the Siné, a pub in Cork.  It was lovely and warm, and a perfect place to leave the last copy.

A pint and a book; in the Siné

I only managed to give one of the children’s books, to a friend’s daughter  I guess I was a bit scared of the reaction people would have if I was trying to offer books to random kids.

It was overall a very pleasant experience and I am delighted to have been part of this first edition of World Book Night.  It actually feels great to be part of this community of book givers and I have met a few people on the way.  I regret that it wasn’t more advertised in Ireland; as a result there wasn’t much of a buzz.  I would have loved to meet other givers in the streets or go to some events.  I guess that if the new website had been in effect earlier on, we could have created groups according to areas and shared our plans more easily.  I know that there are a few things I would do differently if I were to participate again.  For instance, I would try to get the local bookshops more involved in the events: get in touch with them earlier and see if we could organise a small reading (although I would still choose to distribute some of my books outside of that event).  I was also surprised and a bit disappointed that libraries were not more involved in the event.  My local library organised something for children for World Book Day, but nothing for World Book Night.  It was still a fantastic experience and, as all books are tracked through Bookcrossing, we will be able to follow the books and make the event last even longer.

Three of my books have already been caught on Bookcrossing and the people have left messages there and/or on this blog.  I loved reading these messages; they really warmed my heart.

“Just wanted to say thank you for my Margaret Atwood book which I picked up last night at Cork airport. I felt a little bad because I actually already have a copy but I as currently live in France and English books are like gold here and as this is also my favorite Margaret Atwood book, I felt it was a sign. I’m hoping to get my book group to read it, so to have an extra copy is a great incentive.”

“Found ‘The Blind Assassin’ under the Arch at the Quadrangle.
What can I say except thank you so much, its exactly what I was looking for, something non-academic and light and extremely addictive!
. . .
Your generous gift will go along way towards alleviating some of that stress.”

“I was sitting on a bench, gave directions to a lady and i was given the book. Made my day! :)”

As well as being a happy giver, I am also a happy receiver.  I have won a copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark at Little Interpretations’ giveaway.  I was also given  copy of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by the owner of my local bookshop.  He ended up with 48 copies of it as the original giver refused to take them because it wasn’t the book she had chosen.  I also did a book swap with another bookcrosser and will thus get All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.  Finally, I have been offered a copy of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi by someone on Facebook; she wasn’t too successful distributing her chosen book and was so happy to find someone willing to receive a copy that she did not mind mailing it to me.

You can have a look at the set of photos we took during the day: