Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This is not a lending library

In my brain, I have a happy place. This place is permanently recorded in a 1974 Architectural Digest stored in my personal archive, of a nook filled with overflowing bookshelves, more piles of books on a steamer trunk, a soft silk loveseat, Flocati rug, reading lamp and dappled sunlight. Some day when we settle down, I'll have a nook like this.I love books. I love their heft, the way they feel, the way they smell, the various fonts, the flow of a story, fiction or non. Between Lori and I, we have a small fortune tied up in the literary arts. With as often as we've moved since our wedding, it's tough to keep track of everything we own. However, I still know when I'm missing a book. When I arrange them alphabetically, fiction before non-fiction, I know when something isn't where it should be.More recently, I acquired a Sony Reader, allowing me to carry 100 or more books with me whenever I travel. Since I am a voracious channel-surfer, it should come as no surprise that I also read four or five books concurrently. Doing so when traveling was tiresome when I had to carry them with me, buy another when I finished, and cart them all back home. I don't find the reader a poor substitute for the printed word, since I still have other books I read in their traditional form for the rush that musty pages bring. The reader, in addition to solving the issue of transport, of accessing free and reasonably priced digital editions, and gaining some space in our home, also means I can't lend a book to someone once I've finished my first read.

I never want to be one of those 'Indian givers', if you'll forgive the potentially politically incorrect term, but I get nervous any time I loan a book out, knowing the likelihood that I'll ever see the book again is slim to none. I get just as nervous, knowing friends who have loaned me books that still show up in our collection despite having moved 1300 miles from their rightful owner, knowing that they'll likely never be returned at this point.
Lisa, I'm sorry I still have your hardbound edition of 'The Stand'. I never made it past chapter one. I'm pretty sure you have my 'Skinny Legs and All'. Leah, I'm sorry I have your 'Letters from a Nut', or at least I did. I might have a Shel Silverstein of yours, too, I don't know why you left these at my apartment. Holly, you have my 'Me Talk Pretty One Day'. It's probably still on your old desk in the corner of the office. Sarah, I don't know if I ever gave you back your 'Fish Fries of Wisconsin' book. If not, I'll get it to you. Kathy, you have 'Bone in the Throat', I hope you're enjoying the read, it's a fun story, no? I really don't expect to get it back.

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be", spoke Claudius to Hamlet, in Shakespeare's play about the Danish prince. Sadly, I don't have my own copy of this play, it's one we never read in school. Could I, perchance, borrow yours?


Nej said...

We took one room upstairs, and COVERED the walls in bookshelves. COVERED!! Not sure what we're going to do when we run out of room on those shelves. It's already getting pretty close to happening. We're book addicts. Everyone who comes over, loves the room. There's just something about it.

I keep debating getting Mot a reader....but there's just something about holding that book. And....we tend to read the same books. If he's taking it to work, then I won't have it at home, etc, etc.

Daisy said...

I have a huge, gigantic, humongous book of Shakespeare's works from my college Shakespeare classes. Seriously, it could be used as a deadly weapon if you hit someone in the head with it. Of course, you'd have to be able to lift it first. No small feat in itself.

It also has that really thin paper and the teeny-tiny print that makes you about go blind to try and read it, but it has just about every thing he ever wrote in it, I think. (or so it seems!) I know it has Hamlet because that is one of the many that we read and studied.

I'd be happy to lend it to you, but I think you'd do better to get it on your reader or borrow a copy from your local library. They probably have a smaller book that you can actually lift and hold and one that has print big enough that you can actually see.

MJenks said...

When I finish re-reading my copy of Hamlet, I'll let you borrow it.

Or...or...I might have a second copy lying around that I could give you. I know I have more than one Midsummer Night's Dream.

I loaned a copy of a fabulous beer book out to a friend and, sadly, I doubt I'll ever see it again. Which is sad because I loved it and kind of would like to read it again.

Elliott said...

Nej, I love the idea of an entire room of books. Sadly, every time we move I love the idea of CARRYING those books far less than I did the previous time.

I still like real books, but the reader is quite helpful when we travel.

Daisy, I have a Latin dictionary that's about the same size. And somehow, it seems like a good idea, but I don't think it's going to make too many more moves. Maybe I'll just ship it to Mjenks.

And Jenks, I'm pretty sure I can download it for free, it predates copyright law so those are usually rampant on the web. We purged our multiple copies before the move to Florida, we had a few extra Stephen Kings, two Hobbits, and a few others that made their way into our collection over the years. The nice thing was that until we started dating, Lori's and my reading tastes had little overlap, so we didn't gain much duplication there.

I've only lent out one book that I ever hoped to re-read, because I know how this all works.

Nej said...

Luckily, we've not been big movers so far. Only once, with all of our books. We started collecting brown grocery bags before we moved....and loaded books into them. Because you can't fit as many, and you don't want to max of the weight, it kept us from having boxes of books worthy of literally breaking backs. Moving did force us to get rid of some duplicates we had....the ones ones we allowed were Mot's Lord of the Rings series. He has the most tattered, beaten up looking set, that we just can't get rid of. We were afraid to keep reading them, so finally broke down and bought a set that we're not afraid to take off the shelf. :-)

I started using an online library system to keep track of what books we have. Then I can log on when we're at the used book stores, to make sure we're not buying a duplicate. We could outfit another room of ones we buy, and then get home and find we already have it. :-)

dogimo said...

Ever lend out a book that you yourself were only (technically) borrowing?

As for Hamlet, I'm waiting for Hamlet Vs Dracula.

tracey said...

Daisy! I think I have the same volume - Riverside Shakespeare. i've schlepped it through 11 moves, 2 countries & 4 states & 2 provinces. It's not the only one that's made the journey, but it's the deadliest.

The last time we moved, we had a set of twin brothers carry boxes of books into the house for us "You like to read eh?" was all they said the entire time. : )

Elliott I never throw away or give away books either & I hate to lend. I'm more nervous borrowing a book than cash. On that note, Michelle, I'm sorry I still have your "Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase" I borrowed in 1976 but you still have my "Are You There God it's Me, Margaret'. Amber, sorry I still have your "Mists of Avalon" but I think you might still have "Son of a Witch".

LOVED this post Elliott.

Daisy said...

Tracey--YES! Riverside Shakespeare, that's the one! HA! It has made it through seven moves with me (so far!). :D

MJenks said...

Oh...and...um...yeah, it might SEEM like I'm pimping out my wife's place of work, but there's a bunch of free downloads you can get through Barnes & Noble's website. There's a lot of classic stuff (B&N has their own "library" and whatnot).

So, you can look into getting more stuff there, too.

Bev said...

We've got a crammed bookcase in every room of our house, plus a room in the basement with floor to ceiling books & my husband's music collection. So yeah, I get it.

I'd love to have a library like the one in My Fair Lady - complete with dark mahogany spiral staircases and those little ladders on tracks. A girl can dream!

As for lending, I only lend a book if I don't want it back. Therefore any of the frothy beach reads and so forth get sent out into the universe to bring mindless joy to others. If I really like a book, forget about borrowing it -- get your own copy! ;)

Elliott said...

Tracey, your Sedaris post last week was the impetus for this, so thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

Jenks, nothing wrong with a little workplace pimpery in this day and age. And hey, free books!

Bev, I used to dream of those multi-story libraries from classic movies, and will instantly buy an Architectural Digest if they have posts on designers' own homes, since they have brilliant book collections. And yes, if I ever have high hopes of reading something again, it doesn't get lent.

And for the record, while I think public libraries are the environmentally friendly and economically sound way to read, I will never be one to shy away from promoting the purchase of books by people I know. (Sarah, Cary, this means you.)

That Kind of Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That Kind of Girl said...

I am also a woeful lender and an inveterate thief of books. I still do lend books, on occasion, but only to people I like very, very much.

And I had to stop lending to my best friend's boyfriend, beacuse he has a habit of throwing away or donating books that's borrowed from other people once he's done with them. He never rereads and doesn't see the value of a collection, and it doesn't occur to him that anyone else might feel differently. Shudder.

Also, pssst, give The Stand another try. It's a pretty fantastic novel!

Bev said...

I agree with That Kind of Girl about The Stand, btw. I'm not a huge King fan but as a teenager I read all of his work, and that was definitely my fave.

Elliott, this is a pic of the library in my hometown where I spent quite a bit of time after school. Prepare to drool.

Nej said...

My favorite library ever....Des Moines state capital building. Took a ton of pictures, couldn't help myself. It was just too cool! :-)

I was a die hard King fan as a youth...and more than a couple shelves in our house are devoted to his books. :-)

Frank Irwin said...

Someone once asked a friend if he had read all of the books that filled his shelves.

"No," he responded,"I'm too busy buying them."

Sage said...

Know what you mean... but I am lucky to have a nice office with lots of book cases and a study at home with book cases and a fireplace in the living room surrounded by book cases...

I also remember books I lent out decades ago and often i remember who has them... there is K. who has my copy of a "Man Who Walked Through Time" and E. who has my copy of 'My Life on Mountain Railroads" and he's now dead and B who has another book, and the last two guys are dead so I don't think i'll be getting them back... Occasionally, I'm blessed. A few years ago I received a package from a guy i knew years ago who'd borrowed two books--inside were the two books... and then there was the returned book and a nice note from a friend, only problem was that it wasn't my book and I felt guilty enough to send it back to her, paying the shipping, of course.

Came by hear after reading your pop corn note in Pearl's blog which reminded me of a pop corn incident...

Sarah J. Bradley said...

I'm chiming in late here, but I'll be honest: It's this very reason that I own two copies of my favorites. Two Wuthering Heights, Two Gone with the Wind, two copies of the Twilight saga and yes, two copies of Harry Potter. One to lend, one to own. And yes, generally we don't get back the lent books. As I get older, I realize that it doesn't matter. My husband doesn't reread books, and I would rather share my love of books than keep them all to myself in a massive collection. I know there's a "reader" in my near future, but I'm with you Elliott, there's just something about holding a book.

Oh, and I imagine reading one of those electronic readers is frowned upon in the bath tub? LOL!

Frank Irwin said...

I want my own librarian, like this (NSFW).

Be nice and share!

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