Tent City Book Club

Faced with the prospect of spending 24 hours in Tent City, Arizona’s jail for severe traffic violators and the semi-violent, I asked around for advice. Many told me to bring a book because it’s boring and hot. One guy I met in a bar told me he spent 30 days in Tent City for beating up his best friend and I needed to punch the first Mexican who makes eye contact and say, “There’ll be none of that.” I’m hoping my stay involves more of the “boring and hot” stuff than any race riots in the yard. So I have to decide what book to bring. I have a whole pile of unread ones because I love the idea of books more than actually opening one up late at night when Seinfeld reruns are on. If you have an opinion or suggestions, please e-mail me. These are my current options, provisionally ranked from least likely to most likely:

Bone – An unfortunate title, as I don’t want anyone to think it is what I am searching for in jail (or any derivatives made from adding a suffix; -er, -ing, etc.). It is also a graphic novel, which is just code for a comic book that certain adults fool themselves into thinking is OK to read past the age of 13. If geeks are treated the same way in penitentiary as they are in high school, I think I’ll pass.

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale – This autobiography of Jenna Jameson includes pictures. The negative consequences of this are many. Even if it is not taken away from me as contraband I imagine many inmates would want me to “share” it. I don’t even want to “share” it with my friends because I’ve seen what they can do to a magazine when they work together.

Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind – This is a comprehensive history of large cats and their cultural impact through time. I don’t know why I bought this since I’m sure it is probably required reading for a college course out there. I don’t read books that could easily be found in a classroom (unless maybe the classroom is used to teach a course on Jenna Jameson).

Among the Thugs – This book about English soccer fans certainly has the most ironic title of the bunch. I don’t think irony fairs well when pitted against a shiv fashioned from the springs of a bunk bed, though. Plus, the guy on the cover looks like someone who I have been seeing enough of in my pre-incarceration nightmares.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – This book has the second most ironic title of the bunch (especially if I die from heat exhaustion in tent #3A). But I also have to imagine that my “prison mood” would not be enhanced by anecdotes of medical cannibalism.

Under the Banner of Heaven : A Story of Violent Faith – This is a book about Mormons. I do not expect to find and offend any members of this particular faith behind bars, plus it is a hardback, which means it would make a better weapon.

Moneyball – This is a highly acclaimed book about the quest for success in baseball. I figure the subject of sports will signify me as a “normal dude” who is at least behind the “fish that smells like fear” as a candidate for the lifers to make their wife. I should say a “lifer” is equivalent in Tent City to doing the 10-30 day stint.

The Best American Short Stories 2004 – As you can probably tell, I don’t read a lot of fiction. On the other hand, if I don’t like one story I can quickly move on to the next, which may be the most important thing when your stuck with only one book. The decision by a friend in the same situation as me to bring “Ghost Ships” was a big mistake. He thought it was a sequel to the classic horror movie Ghost Ship starring Julianna Margulies, when it was really an epic love story involving figures of the surrealist movement. The day after getting out he had a weird look in his eyes and couldn’t stop talking about Salvador Dali. Well… that and the shower raping.