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Rule No. 1 for any well-mannered work authored by a rucksack-toting cosmopolitan striving to unpack contemporary culture: Invoke several dictionary definitions to explain your esoteric title. Accordingly, in Mongo: Adventures in Trash, Ted Botha is quick to tell us that “mongo” is slang for: (1) an idiot, (2) any discarded object that is retrieved, and (3) a scrap-metal scavenger. Rule No. 2: Amass a cast of crazy characters: Botha’s remarkable lineup of New Yorkers includes a sad suburban woman whose great passion is run-of-the-mill trash, “canners” who have made as much as $650 a day from aluminum cans, a metal-detector enthusiast who loves landfills and has found a tricorn hat from the Revolutionary War, punk-rock youths who see dumpster-diving as moral vindication, and a gay interior decorator who dressed an entire apartment with trash. At times, Botha sounds too much as if he were narrating an urban nature show, but at least he never patronizes his subjects (except when he distinguishes them, in passing, from “real” collectors). For a funnier and more visceral understanding of why some people go to great lengths for other people’s flotsam, Botha’s book might be augmented with another recently published tome, Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items From Around the World. But if it’s wacky New York you’re looking for, seek out the King of Mongo when Botha reads at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 1, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 525-4227. (Bidisha Banerjee)