Thursday, October 02, 2008

On Borrowing

I happened across a really neat little thing by author Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Plexus, and many other books).... and it made me do some soul-searching.
"One of the first things I associate with the reading of books is the struggle I waged to obtain them. Not to own them, mind you, but to lay hands on them... What makes a book live? A book lives through the passionate recommendation of one reader to another. Nothing can throttle this basic impulse in the human being. Despite the views of cynics and misanthropes, it is my belief that men will always strive to share their deepest experiences. Books are one of the few things men cherish deeply. And the better the man the more easily will he part with his most cherished possessions. A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum--of both books and money! But especially books, for books represent infinitely more than money. A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold."
-- Henry Miller –

At the top of this blog is a picture of one wall of my apartment.
It is only one wall, I do have others, and they too have books against them.
I am viciously possessive of this one feature of my life.
My life has been filled with books, since my elementary school years. My books have always been the most meaningful part of my possessions.
Over the years I have amassed quite a quantity of treasured books, and I only keep the best ones. Those that I read and that do not mean all that much to me, I leave them in the laundry room downstairs for others to pick up, or I donate them to a used book sale or a church library or some such thing. [I never throw them away, of course.]
There have been times when I have filled the trunk of my car with boxes and boxes of books, and given them away. In the past few years, I can recall giving away (no exaggeration), perhaps 20 fairly large boxes of books that I no longer wanted.
But the ones that become a part of my inner world?
No, those stay with me.
And I find it difficult to lend them out.
This excerpt from Henry Miller makes me realize that I am quite finicky about lending my books. I see the logic involved in circulating them, but I just do not trust that when I let the book out of my hands, it will ever return to me. With most of my books, I have a very palpable “till death do us part” vow attached.
The quote by Miller causes me to do some soul-searching, as I mentioned above.
But if the end result of soul-searching inevitably results in any sort of change of heart, or change of mind..... then I have not found my soul tonight.
Because I have thought about it a great deal, and dang it all if the end result is that I still do not want to lend anyone any of my treasures.



Anonymous said...

I completely understand and agree with you. I only lend out a few and I'm very selective about who I lend them to (anal even). Then I hound that person by asking how they like it so far and such, really I'm just checking in on my book.
We are a sorry lot!

Jeane said...

Interesting. I LOVE public libraries. I am happy when I walk into my library and the shelves look half-empty, or I can't find a book I want, because then I know the books are going around being appreciated (hopefully) by other people. Libraries are great for circulating books, ideas, knowledge throughout the population.

But MY library is not public. I'm just like you. The books I love, the ones that speak to me personally, or make me laugh or cry, I keep and treasure and don't lend out. Too many times before they never returned to me. Any book, good or bad, that I don't care for, I give away to someone who will.

Anonymous said...

SAD!!! Untrusting...and selfish! Share your books with anyone who wants to read them.

Anonymous said...

I am so like you in this it is scary. The only books that I keep are the ones that found a place in my heart, and I don't have enough space for them even then. My relunctance to lend stems from when I lent out like 20 books to someone I knew and she never returned them and then moved out of town, not leaving a forwarding address. I have also had a "friend" steal from me and then deny it. Now none of my books leave my library unless it is to my 2 best friends whom I see all the time and know are responsible.