After loaning out the bazillionth book that was never returned, you vowed to stop this habit. Never, ever, ever again, you told yourself. Ever. But then you were talking to this person about books, and it turned out that this person had never read one of your favourite books. And you thought to yourself, "This person would LOVE this book! It could change their life! And then they'd have me to thank for it! I'd be a life-changer! Maybe they'll write about me in their memoirs!" And despite your previous resolution about not lending books, you convince yourself that this person is different. No way they'll screw you. And besides, if they forget to return it, you'll remember and remind them (politely).
Fast-forward six months. You have a hankering to re-read one of your favourite books. You go to your bookcase to get it, but it's... not... there. Where could it be? Could you have loaned it to someone? But you vowed not to do that any more, remember? Though... you seem to vaguely recollect that maybe you did anyway. But to whom? Or is that who? You can never keep that straight. Never mind all that. Your book is gone -- where to, you have no idea -- and you're likely never to see it again. Do you:
(a) Curse yourself, but hope that the book could still come back, possibly of its own volition à la The Incredible Journey, and wait for it like the Patient Griselda?The most tragic thing about this entire scenario -- other than the pathetic cycle of stupidity, of course -- is that the books you lose are never just ANY books. They're your all-time favourite books, books you love so much that you're helpless not to foist them on any nigh-stranger who expresses the merest smidgen of a suggestion of an inkling that they might be interested in reading it.
(b) Curse yourself and buy a new copy?
(c) Curse yourself and decide that, as punishment, you've lost your ownership privileges for this book for all time... and then renege a few months later and get yourself a new copy after all?
Here are just a few of the books I've replaced at least twice:
- Larry's Party
- The Stone Diaries
- East of Eden
- Travels with Charley
- Harriet the Spy
- Breakfast at Tiffany's
- On the Road (Okay, this isn't one of my favourites, but I liked it a lot at the time(s) I owned it. Note to others: Don't loan anything by Kerouac to the kinds of people who like Kerouac. If you can't learn from my mistakes, what am I doing here?)
Now the only problem, as I see it, is mustering up the nerve to openly use this system in front of people to whom I'm loaning books. Is there a way to do this without looking like a dick?
"You're going to love this! I've read it eleven times! Now... there's just the small matter of the paperwork. How do you spell your last name again? Mm-hmm. And what's the best daytime number to reach you at? All righty! You've got it till March 16th. You do understand that late penalties may apply?"
That does sound potentially awkward, huh? How deep is the irony that this kit is created for and marketed to the one segment of the population (i.e. book nerds) too self-effacing to muster the cojones to actually use it?
Probably the best policy would be if you just don't come to me for a book loan... well, unless you really, really, really want it. I can trust you, right?
(Note to Doppelsis, Suzi, Tara, Libby, Jenn, Shona and, possibly, others: I'm not talking about you, I swear! You guys rock! Actually, this makes me realize something I've never noticed before. All the people who borrow my books and don't return them don't even read my blog. Note to those people: Fuck you, you fuckers!)