And by “not buying it” I don’t mean “not believing it”…. I mean, “not purchasing it.”
So let’s talk about this for a moment here.
The fine art of reading entire books in the store but not buying them, because, [for one thing] I do it all the time!
The book in question is Alice Munro’s new one, The View From Castle Rock.
Does my conscience bother me that I am slowly making my way through this book every day by taking it off the shelf and reading the next chapter, but never buying it?
Thing is, as soon as the book came out I did buy a copy of it and sent it to my reading partner, in the mail. So, in a sense, I did pay for the thing at one point in the continuum of my overall purloinage. [← Is that a word? It should be.]
Therefore, in an ethical sense, I truly believe that my going to hell after I die will have much more to do with other issues!
There is the problem of detection, though.
The behavior I am describing is understandably frowned upon.
They [The Store Authorities] don’t like the books to go into the Starbucks section, [where I pretty much live…] in fact, there are signs everywhere forbidding such action, and occasionally someone working for the bookstore will tap me on the shoulder and say, “Sir, did you purchase that book?”
I must admit, it is a bit unnerving.
I’m sure the look on my face is at least a bit like Adam’s was when God finally showed up and asked him how the apple tasted!
But I have devised a neat way of circumventing the possibility of guilt feelings ruining my reading session. Before I sit down with my coffee, I remove the dustjacket of the book and hide it somewhere. That way it looks as though I am reading one of my own books, and no one bothers me. No tap on the shoulder. No voice from heaven. I read on in Edenic bliss.
Later, I simply replace the dustjacket and put the book back on the shelf.
I have friends who do the same.
They read the books but do not buy them. One instance in particular, comes to mind. For the sake of anonymity, I will call this friend of mine Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
In other words, his real name is probably not Tim. [D’oh!]
OK, so Alexander Solzhenitsyn was doing just what I am describing here. Over a period of time, he was reading a whole entire book in the store. I'll never forget. It was was M. Scott Peck’s, The Different Drum.
And as he read through the thing, he would tell me all about it. I began to know exactly what chapter he was on…. exactly where he was, in the book.
So one day I went to the store before he himself got there and I found the very book he was reading. Luckily, there was only one copy on the shelf. I opened up to the chapter I knew he would be reading that evening, and I placed a sticky note on the very page. [These are easily removable and would not damage the book].
On the note, I wrote, “Don’t think we don’t see you Mr. Solzhenitsyn. We have been watching you read this book, every day! Signed, The Management.”
And I placed the book back on the shelf, and left the store.
Needless to say, Alexander called me that very evening, telling me of his adventure. Said he felt like he was back in the Gulag!
Well, I must go. I am at the Bookstore right now!
And I sort of forget where I placed the dustcover this time around…. it may take a bit of looking….