By Matt Richtel
JANUARY 23--Meet Shelly Koontz. The Iowa woman was arrested last night and jailed briefly for failing to return a library book. Koontz, 39, was busted after ignoring repeated requests from the Jesup Library to turn over "The Freedom Writers Diary," a $13.95 volume that chronicles a teacher's success at a California high school. Koontz, pictured in the below Buchanan County Sheriff's Office mug shot, spent about two hours in custody before posting $250 bail on the theft rap.
According to Jesup Police Department reports, Koontz did not return the book when it was due last April. In a bid to retrieve the book, library officials subsequently called Koontz four times and wrote her three letters (a fourth missive, sent certified mail, was refused by Koontz). As a result, the library's director recently informed police that she wanted to press a misdemeanor simple theft charge.
This is the beginning. This is how it starts.
Remember the rub against Democrats? That they were weak on defense? Well, what the heck do you think they say about writers: that we're wimps, can't stand up for ourselves, rarely shower or understand the difference between shirts that are fashionably wrinkled and ones that we slept in.
Here's how it's going down from now on:
The first time you fail to return an overdue book, you get a fine.
The second time, you go to jail.
The third time, we shoot your spouse in the neck.
Now, do I have your #*^& attention?!
Sorry for cursing.
Look, we writers must get past our typical passive aggressive tactics. Such as, for instance: A writer's agent hasn't been calling or emailing lately and when she finally does, he acts quiet and withdrawn. She asks him what's bothering him
"Nothing," he replies. "I'm fine. I'm just focused on finishing the new book."
Then he goes into the home office, spends two years writing a 400-page fictional story about an agent named Lisa (his actual agent is named Laura) whose habit of only being friendly when she wants something brings down the whole of Western Civilization.
I love my agent, who is named Liza, and I don't know any idea what you're getting at. Also, you have something in your teeth.
My point, though it should be obvious through my deft and direct prose, is that library fines are passive aggressive. And why? Because we not only want people to check out our books, we want them to keep our books forever. We would like people to love our stories so much that they are willing to break the law in order not to give up our work. I know there are writers out there who will not be satisfied until someone commits a heinous and violent act involving flames and a tractor and a major national monument in order to show devotion to a particular book. I am not one of those writers. I mostly spend time thinking about how much I love my agent.
We need to ask ourselves a simple question: WWCMD?
What Would Cormac McCarthy Do?
Cormac would invent a character with a brooding visage and a crooked but charismatic smile who owns a nail gun and doesn't use it to fix up the house
"Honey, I'm going to hang up the curtains in the spare bedroom. I love you. Really."
Anyhow, this character would visit libraries across the country. At random, he'd pick out scofflaws who have failed to return books on time. Fearlessly, he'd approach them in a relatively public setting. He'd flip a coin. If the coin came up heads, he'd let the book absconder live. If it came up tails, he'd staple their heads to the unleaded pump.
Then, from the hand of the deceased, he'd snag the book (in this case Hooked, a fast-paced thriller that is so gripping that it is the sort of thing people would steal from a library) and carry it with him to the Oscars and Emmys and show it off during an acceptance speech of some kind.
Do you see what I'm saying? It's time for us to become part of the modern era of vengeance and violence. Let's step out from behind the pen and the library fine. Let's pick up the sword and the keys to Cell Block A. If you can't share nicely with other library patrons, there's going to be hell to pay.
And double the punishment for not checking out our books in the first place.
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