“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Lender Nor A Borrower Be

With all the reams dedicated to the pros and cons of Kindle, I’m sure someone else has covered this elsewhere, but if they have I haven’t come across it. Anyway, what I’m wondering is this: What’s going to happen to the borrowing and lending of books?
  As I understand it, you won’t be able – even if it were legal to do so – to zap your latest fave from one e-reader to another. And a lot of readers take great pleasure in not only recommending a new book, but also pressing it into the hands of family and friends with the breathless command to read it now, this very minute, lest the unfortunate ignorant should fall under a bus the following morning and die without knowing true joy.
  Personally, I want to staple such people’s eyes closed. But that’s just me. And lots of people love to lend and swap books, to the extent that there’s a thriving black market in swappable books out there.
  So what’ll happen if the e-readers ever tumble over the tipping point? You’ll hardly be in a position to lend your Kindle, will you? Kind of defeats the point of having one if you keep loaning it to people so they can read books on it. And what about second-hand bookstores? Will there be some electronic equivalent, whereby a Kindle user can download pre-loved books at a fraction of the Kindle price?
  I don’t have a Kindle, at least not yet, but if I do invest then the whole lending-borrowing thing won’t be an issue, because I hate lending books. In fact, I do it only on very rare occasions, with people I can trust, and those rare occasions are enough to remind me why I don’t lend books. Mainly, it’s because no one ever returns a borrowed book.
  There are subtle reasons for this. In some cases, the borrower starts to read the book, and doesn’t like it, and then can’t return it for fear of calling the lender’s taste into question. Or the opposite occurs, and the book is so terrific that the borrower simply can’t countenance the prospect of living without the book on his or her shelf. Or, worst of all, the book is so terrific that the borrower, without asking permission, lends it on to someone else, with rave reviews. And why wouldn’t they? If you don’t love the book enough to hoard it in the first place, why should you love it enough to want it back?
  No, as with money, the best thing with books is to be neither a lender nor a borrower. If you love books, truly love them, then you’ll end up losing good friends in the fall-out and end up like me, with so few friends that you end up blogging in a pathetic attempt to generate on-line relationships.
  And all that is without opening the can of worms as to why, when people are supposed to be your friends, and family, and know you better than you know yourself, etc., they insist on lending you books you wouldn’t read were they the only books left after a nuclear holocaust. And oh, the horror, the horror, of the book-shaped Christmas gift in its shiny wrapping …