The most amazing thing happened to me this weekend. My friend Kelly (not the Kelly of floor-system fame) returned a book to me eight years after he borrowed it. He had read the book, enjoyed it, remembered that it belonged to me and, in one of those little miracles that life sometimes brings, he returned it. I had forgotten all about it which makes it even more exciting to have it back. I’m thrilled.
I can’t remember if I’ve written about lending books or not, but it’s a subject I’m really divided on. On the one hand, I love my books and I want other people to love them too. There’s nothing better than finding a kindred spirit who shares your taste in books and with whom you can exchange recommendations and swap copies of well-loved books for discussion later on. (I mean, isn’t this shared pleasure exactly what book clubs are based on?) On the other hand, I love my books and that means I like seeing them on my bookshelves. When I lend them out, I want them back. My mom knows what I’m talking about. Being a retired librarian, she is pretty strict about her lending policy. If your account isn’t in good standing you can’t borrow another book until you’ve returned all outstanding items. My aunt Cath can attest to the fact that she enforces this policy without exception.
For my part, I do lend my books but with mixed results. My mother-in-law is my only regular customer and she almost always returns them promptly having read them in a couple of days. We have a quick discussion about it, the book is re-shelved and then she selects another. It’s all business and it works. I have a number of friends, on the other hand, who borrow a book, don’t read it right away and then hang on to it, planning to read it at some future date. The book is either returned unread (quite unsatisfying) or isn’t returned at all (even worse). This model clearly doesn’t work and it forces me to take measures to keep my home library intact. I’ve even been known to sneak into my friends’ bedrooms during dinner parties and slip my book into my purse while pretending to be visiting the ladies’ room. (I’m aware that this is creepy so please don’t tell anyone that I do it.)
Back to Kelly. The book in question, in case you’re wondering, is Live From New York, an uncensored oral history of Saturday Night Live, featuring interviews with cast members, writers and guests. It’s insightful, revealing and hilarious but probably only appealing to a serious fan of the show. I loved it and it’s great to have it back.