Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be

That’s me running with my book returned years later.

I am not good at lending books. I don’t like to do it. I worry I’ll never see the things again. Even if it’s some old beaten up paperback of The Grapes of Wrath, it’s MY old paperback of the Grapes of Wrath, probably with my underlines and notations in the borders. And I’m uneasy about accepting a book to read from someone else. I forget I have it, sometimes for long periods, because I rarely read it as soon as it crosses my palms. I put it in a pile of  To Be Read books, and there it stays until I want to read it, which may mean never. I don’t ask to borrow books, believe me. When a friend has found a book they claim I can’t live without, they demand I read it. And, after being asked to borrow it for the 20th time, I will, explaining I may take a bit of a long time until I get to it. They don’t believe me. So when months go by, and they’ve asked me how I liked the book, and I’ve told them again and again I haven’t gotten to it yet, they become miffed. That’s when I dig it out and return it unread, hoping I don’t find myself accepting a book again. But undoubtedly I will. Not that every lent book goes untouched. I’ve started a few, decided they weren’t for me, and returned them–a rather quick turnaround.

Now that we have such an easy way to search for people–maybe I should hunt down the scoundrel that I gave this bookplate to, and demand its return?

And a measly couple of times I’ve read the book right after borrowing it, and it was wonderful, so I return it with a smile and a great big thanks.

I am anal retentive about getting my books back if I’ve lent any. These days, I rarely offer, but when I used to, back in my youth, if they didn’t give a book back to me within a reasonable time frame, I would hound them. Really really insist on my book. And it suppose it extends to most anything I may allow someone to borrow. I had a postcard from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London  I’d bought on a trip there when I was in collage. It was a William Blake, bearded man and the moon. I lent it to a friend, for a reason I can’t remember, and he didn’t give it back. I asked politely, then I asked more insistently, then I demanded, far more than once, until a slightly creased Blake postcard was in my possession once again. I still have it. (I think it took a couple of years!)

I collect books, but I also collect paper ephemera, and there isn’t a museum I’ve not bought boatloads of art postcards from. I love those things. If I can’t own the real art, ha, then a teeny weeny representation of it has to do. When I would be hired for summer theatre necessitating living in a dorm room, I’d personalize the room with these postcards, and a new specially chosen art poster from the Met–Metropolitan Museum of Art, in NYC. Sometimes it felt as if I spent more time in the gift shop then the corridors full of priceless work. The Met required many repeat visits. But as anyone knows who lives in a place where everyone else comes to visit and see the sights, you usually visit none of them. The only times I went atop the Empire State Building, or World Trade Center, was to satisfy tourist friends of mine. The Statue of Liberty was a one time thing, and I vowed never to do it again. Some of the museums were a different story, although, I admit I never set foot in the Guggenheim. I’ve no idea why-I didn’t find a reason to go! Each time I’d peruse the books, postcards, and choose with care. So, for someone to borrow a piece–that to others would mean little to nothing–and not give it back, was unforgivable.

It says something about me, not good I think, lol, that I can remember clearly those times when possessions were not returned. And I will forever regret my giving away! a small plate from an obscure Robin Hood. The quote is emblazoned in my memory banks–“The gates were closed against him.” Remembering that line over the years, I thought of it’s meaning in relationship to a situation that was occurring at the time. It made an impact on me. I am haunted by my fallacy, but the guy was cute,  and I thought if I capitulated to his desire to own that slip of paper, he would perhaps look my way. He was a first class jerk, who ended up making out with one of my best friends at a party in front of the entire crowd. While he already had a girlfriend, and another ex-girlfriend was in attendance! Ah, youth!  You’d never ever never ever catch me handing over a piece of ephemera to some guy now! Not even the husband. Recently, I googled for something, and linked here there and everywhere, when an edition of Robin Hood appeared. I nearly fell off my chair. It had my plates–including my long gone missing one. Whoever scanned them didn’t de-screen, but the beggar can’t be choosers quote was apropos, and I rejoiced in seeing it again.

“A five year old child could understand this. Now run out and find a five year old child.”

In high school I became obsessed (I think I was and am obsessed with many things) with the silver screen, in particular silent films and early talkies. And the Marx Brothers. Two friends and I decided to create the trio for something or other, and I played Groucho, naturally. (I’m not the silent type, and my piano instruction was rusty) Chico, or my friend dressed as Chico, after graduation and I returned from the UK, borrowed a book I had bought there that wasn’t published in the US for some reason–Harpo Speaks, Adolph/Arthur Marx’s autobiography. Understandable she wanted to read it. Not so understandable that a year or more went by and it hadn’t been returned. I damn well wanted that book back. She lived a few doors down the street–but I think by the time I was ready to burst, she was away, or had moved. Her parents still resided there, so I marched up to their door, asked her mother if she could check my friend’s room for the book and give it back to me, which surprisingly, she did! That’s another thing I proudly still own!

My best friend asked to borrow my Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ever mindful of the quote, I lent it. I didn’t worry about its return. The book sat in a bookshelf down the hall from me–he and I were roommates, and I was assured to get it back!



3 thoughts on “Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be”

  1. Since I’ve moved hundreds of books from house to apartment to house to condo to townhouse, I can’t WAIT to give these things away. They’re heavy and they take up a lot of space. I used to be a collector. I used to be just like you. But I just can’t afford to do that anymore. Especially since the plan is to move into a 5th wheel next year.

    • Hello! What’s a 5th wheel? And I don’t keep every book I have owned, lol. I have stacks of first edition inscribed by authors in boxes to give to nursing homes etc. So, I do understand lack of space and heavy heavy moving. But if I lend a book to someone, it must mean something to me, and I want it returned. If it doesn’t mean anything to me–I tell them to keep it, then there’s no stress whatsoever! LOL.

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