I don’t like lending my books.
There are several reasons for this, but the foremost is the fact that I’m terrible at returning books that have been lent to me. As a life’s rule, I try not to hold other people to higher standards than I hold myself, so every time I have lent a book, I have never seen that book again. However, I also have an elephant’s memory for the books I’ve lost in this fashion, and, like the death of the toad I hand-reared from tadpole and lent to a teacher friend’s class only to have it turn up its toes in thier care, I’ve never really gotten over the losses. Similarly, I feel a pang of guilt when I view the spines of the novels a friend lent me at uni when she heard I had enrolled in a course she’d just taken. I dropped the course when I realised the professor wanted to look at some of my favourite fairy tales through the lens of Freud, but the books still sit on my shelf to this day, mostly unread.
I try to take solace in the idea that other book lenders may be equally offending borrowers. I could also put my forgetfulness down to the fact that I’ve never had someone who lent me a book subsequently ask for that book’s return. And yet, the fact that part of me pines for my copy of The Three Musketeers, lent to a high school friend when I was 18, suggests that there may be a few other readers out there similarly aching for the texts they have left in my keeping. Does it all come out in the wash? Was I ever really going to re-read that copy of The Tiger in the Well? I don’t know the answer. But from now on, please, don’t lend me anything. I can’t take it.