Les Livres Automatique.
I was reading an article in the Washington Post yesterday about vending machines in France that dispense books. Each book, regardless of category, sells for about $2.45, and the Maxi Livres company offers about 25 titles to choose from, including classics like Alice in Wonderland, Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, cookbooks, a French-English dictionary and Homer's Odyssey. The machines are located at four Metro stops, and they have a mechanical arm to safely deliver the book out of the machine, rather than a slot drop, to protect the book from any damage.
This got me thinking about what books might prove popular if Washington were to adopt such machines, and how you can personalize them for each locale? Certainly on Capitol Hill, you would need to offer up The Art of War by Sun Tzu which is every 20-year old political novice's career manifesto. (Which reminds me: I used to hear about The Art of War so much, I put a copy of Erwin Rommel's The Tank In Attack in my bookcase at work, along with the Pentagon's annual edition of warfare weapons from firearms to missiles). Maybe The Prince by Machiavelli, written when Machiavelli found himself out of a job after 14 years of public service. Just the thing for the future lobbyists. A Margaret Truman potboiler mystery , Cutler's Washingtonienne for sleazy slut reading, and de Tocqueville's Democracy in America to keep things highbrow.
Over by Brookland/Catholic University, the machines could house books by various Popes, or one of my favorites: Holy Anorexia by Rudolph Bell which is a twisted journey into the eating disorders of female saints, The Da Vinci Code*... oh yes, Butler's Lives of the Saints. Let's see...August 26th...St. Caesarius of Arles, born in 470, entered the monastery at age 20, named Bishop of Arles, celebrated preacher who stressed brevity and clarity of language, made a legal provision in 529 that every nun must learn to read and write and have the right to choose her own abbess. All right. ^5 Caesarius. You rock, oh venerated one.
Dupont Circle and environs could support the club habit by having books like: Atomic Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for Modern Times, Flipping by Ricardo Ramos: the story of three gay Filipino males who come to terms with their sexuality in different ways. Then there 's the ever classic Mr. Boston Official Bartender's and Party Guide. You could lure out fetishists with The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe by William Rossi, or Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear by Elaine Benson, the novel Footsucker by Geoff Nicholson, or for late night/ the darker side rides: Impervious To Pain: Case Studies in Sado-Masochism by David Malcolm. John Waters once said that the most vulgarly, wicked trash he had ever read was Michael Jackson Was My Lover by Victor Guiterrez. There's a copy for sale for e-Bay with "stains."
Then there's the goal of keeping people away from you on the Metro if you don't want anyone sitting next to you. This would take a special vending machine that might give you Merde: Excursions in Scientific, Cultural and Socio-Historical Coprology...then again, you might also lure the fetishist with this one. Perhaps, Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. How about Syphilis: A Pathophysiology by the National Communicable Disease Center? Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho by Harold Schechter. By the way, Ed Gein was the poster boy for Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. He was this rather withdrawn farmer in Wisconsin who had this odd passion for wearing human skin. People might think twice about wanting that subway seat, even if it is rush hour.
I remember the first time I visited Amsterdam, as I was leaving the train station I noticed a vending machine selling female underwear: black lace panties, hot pink...no Granny panties in this red light window world. I read recently that in Japan there is a vending machine which guarantees the sale of used panties "worn by schoolgirls." My, my, my. Perhaps every book machine needs to offer up Emily Post, or Urban Etiquette: Marvelous Manners for the Modern Metropolis by Charles Purdy.
*Thank you Chase, for reminding me about The Da Vinci Code