Thursday, July 29, 2004

What Have I Done?

Neither a borrower nor a lender be, For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare, Hamlet (I, iii). Or perhaps--To lend or not to lend, that is the question. I have just loaned a book to a coworker. I couldn't help it. She is getting married next weekend and then having a honeymoon "up north" as we say here in Minnesota, at the Gunflint lodge. It's a long drive. She asked me if she could borrow a book. My defenses went up and I started mentally running through my list of excuses. But before I got through them all she came out with "and you can pick it for me." "You're going to let me pick a book for you to read?" I asked in astonishment. "Yes," she said," just choose something light since I will be reading in the car." I felt queasy. Conflicted. My salivary glands went into overdrive. Here was someone asking me to tell her what to read. Since I don't have the pleasure of working in a bookstore like my Bookman does, I don't get the joy of pushing books I liked onto the unsuspecting. Oh sure, a few of my more bookish colleagues will occasionally ask me what I'm reading, but for the most part I'm just a geek who reads a lot. So when my coworker asked me to tell her what to read, my knees went wobbly and I almost passed out from the excitement. But I had to lend her the book. That gave my knees strength, kept me from falling to the floor, and chilled my frenzied heart. I rarely lend books. I have a major fetish about my books. I like them pristine. I like my pristine book to remain looking pristine after it has been read. There are some exceptions. Somehow there is a category in my mind into which I place "working" books--books that are reference or history or informational in some way--fall into the working category. I can write in these books. I can get crumbs on the pages. If the book is a paperback, I don't feel too terribly bad if the spine creases or breaks. But my coworker didn't want a working book, she wanted a reading book. So I thought, how much do I like this person? And can I trust that she will not only return the book, but return it in pristine condition? It all came down to the fact that she was an English major in college. Anyone who majors in English has to be a book freak of some kind. So I ignored the voice that was yelling "Nooooooo!" and told her "Sure" in as cheery and unconcerned way as I could manage. When I brought the book to her, still with the voice in my head yelling "Noooooo!", she unknowingly gave me a heap of reassurance. She ooohhed and started caressing the book, "pretty," she cooed. So now the book is in her hands and I'm freaking out about it a little, having some separation anxiety problems. It will be two weeks before I see her or the book again. It's like a mother sending her baby off to camp for the summer except my kid can't write to me to say if the food is good or that she fell in the lake while canoeing or slipped in the mud when hiking. And if that voice doesn't stop yelling "Nooooo!" any time soon I'm either going to go deaf or leap off the cliffs of insanity. What book did I lend her? Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. If you haven't read it you're missing out. Just don't expect me to loan it to you.