thief of time

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Lending Books

I have come to the conclusion that it should be against the law to lend books in civilised society. It’s such a personal choice that people should realise it’s as presumptuous as giving friends perfume without finding out their preferences.

I read. It’s what I do. It’s one of my principal pleasures in life and has been ever since I was a child. It used to be that I would read anything, simply because it was in print and I was print starved. It wasn’t that we didn’t have books at home, because we did, but there weren’t many of them. It also wasn’t that we didn’t have a public library, because we did and I was allowed to go once a week and get one book. Borrowers could take out three books at a time, but my parents had this very strange idea that if they allowed me to borrow three, I would do nothing but spend my week reading these books. Instead of that, I would spend my time reading and rereading the one book that I had out and then go back to the books we had at home, over and over again. I would hate to think the number of times I read the children’s classics like Alice in Wonderland or Huckleberry Finn. Then I headed on to my father’s old high school texts.

So, as you can see, reading is definitely not a problem. Time is, however, and in my old age, I’ve become rather more particular about what I read. I now have almost complete access to all the books I want and if offered a book by someone, unless it’s one I’m particularly interested in, I can usually say with complete honesty that I have so many books to read at home that I just wouldn’t be able to fit it in.

Unfortunately, people occasionally catch you on the hop and you’re delivered a fait accompli by such an extremely nice person who thinks they’re giving you a real treat, that there’s nothing you can do but say ”thanks” and make the best of it.

So you take the book home and look at the cover and think, surely it can’t be as bad as it looks. Then you start it and think “Yes, that’s why they put these particular covers on these books--to warn people away.” So, you struggle through the first chapter and set it aside for another day, thinking it might not be too bad if you just take it in small doses. Then, all of a sudden you spot it on your shelf and realise you haven’t read it for a week and a half and it’s coming up to the time when a hopeful lender will be expecting their book back with perhaps a little discussion of the plot and characters.

So, you struggle heroically through another batch of pages and for some reason your usual rather speedy reading seems to be mired in sludge as your eyes get heavier and heavier and before you know it, you’re out like a light and no further ahead. Now the finishing of this book looms over you like an assignment due and you keep putting it off realising that there will be a reckoning, but hopefully sometime in the Never-Never.

Remember everyone, please ask someone if they would like to borrow your book and give them the chance to decline gracefully. After all, everyone has different tastes and I’m sure lots of people would find my choices equally appalling. Also, if you give a book as a present, just accept the fact that your friend has it to read when they get around to it and that life being as busy as it is, it may be quite some time before that happens, so don’t keep asking them if they’ve had a chance to read it yet.

Unless of course, it’s we're talking about your child, in which case all the previous instructions are null and void.

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