LOS ANGELES — Two people were taken into custody after allegedly beating a man at the Downtown Los Angeles Public Library. Police responded to an emergency call placed from the library this afternoon and found two men kicking a third man in the main hall of the building. From the information gathered, it appears as if the dispute was over whose prose is better: Herman Melville’s or James Joyce’s.
When the officers arrived, one of them told reporters, they almost opened fire on the two men. “At first glance we thought they were holding weapons. It turned out they were each holding a book.” The men stopped kicking the victim and raised their hands in the air while the officers detained them. “Both men were very hesitant to drop their books.” Each had a copy of Moby Dick.
The beaten man was taken to the nearest hospital. He reportedly clutched his copy of Ulysses the entire way. A source from inside the library said, “The man’s spectacles were crushed and his face was pretty bloody. I think he’ll be OK, but he took quite a beating.” The source wished to remain anonymous for fear of being charged with hindering the legal process. Police are still collecting evidence and testimonies from the few onlookers at the scene.
“I guess the motive was clear,” the source said. “The three men got into a loud argument about who was better, Herman Melville or James Joyce. A library worker asked the men to take the conversation outside, but the two Melville fans became unruly and started taunting the Joyce fan. Personally,” the source said, “I think Hemingway licks both of those writers.”
According to the source, the two Melville fans swore like sailors and called Joyce a series of gay and racist slurs. They said Joyce was guilty of writing a lot of gibberish. They also claimed the protagonist of Ulysses was nothing but a Jew. “The Joyce fan kind of took it for awhile, but then he just cracked, like he came unhinged,” the source said, “and he jumped up and started talking about how anybody could write a whaling novel and anybody could lift passages from encyclopedias about the ocean, whales, and rendering blubber. He said it didn’t take a genius to write about such a cliche tragic figure like Ahab.” The situation became truly bizarre when the Joyce fan waved his copy of Ulysses in the air and shouted, “Starbuck was an earnest man! Whoo-hoo!”
That’s when the Melville readers lost it. The taller one pushed the stout Joyce fan to the ground, and then the two began kicking him. The police had already been called by one farsighted librarian. “I knew it looked like trouble,” she said, “from the very first. We’ve been having problems with overzealous readers. I called the police right away. Tempers run wild in the library sometimes. We had a fight just two years ago when a young man called Bret Easton Ellis a modern day Nathanael West. That remark caused a scuffle. There are some serious West fans out there.”
The librarian remembered an incident that happened at the library years ago. “I’ve only heard about this,” she said, “but apparently the poet Charles Bukowski barged in here one day. He was juiced. They say he was always juiced, but anyway, he started bad-mouthing Tolstoy and saying he couldn’t figure out why anybody read that garbage and how he’d read War & Peace every night before going to bed and he’d decided it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.”
Chief of Police Charlie Beck briefly talked to reporters outside of the library. “We’ve seen an increasing amount of fights and domestic situations concerning literature. Today’s crime was over two very classic books, and although I haven’t read either one of them, I know both novels are special to a lot of people. Apparently what had begun as a very light exchange turned into a heated argument, and it ended in a very ugly manner.
“I know if my favorite novel was being denigrated, I’d be pretty upset, but I would never resort to violence. We at the LAPD ask Angelenos to remain cool when discussing literature, and we ask that everyone respect the opinions of those around them. No matter how great some of these novels might be, they are, after all, just books.”
When asked what his favorite novel is, the chief of police refused to answer. “I’m not getting into it. But I will say that today’s incident is rather unfortunate'”I think both Joyce and Melville are a little overrated.”
A shocking report out last month highlighted a growing concern from the LAPD that small clusters of Melville fans were gathering in some of L.A.’s poorer neighborhoods and threatening anyone who hadn’t read Melville’s work. The report admitted the findings were very nominal and no action had been taken by police to remedy the situation.
“I like them shoot em up books,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was quoted in the report. “If I can’t understand a book while doing a headstand or while at a Lakers game, I won’t read it.”