Friday, April 20, 2007

Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be

While I was off seeing the sights of the central coast of California (freezing, I might add—what is with the weather this year??), I came across a “Hints from Heloise” column in one of the local newspapers that seemed appropriate for a literary blog: suggestions for how to ensure your books are returned after you lend them out.

Apparently, the column was sparked by an earlier suggestion that people ask for a monetary deposit before handing over the book. (Helpful hint of my own: If you try that at something called a “bookstore” you’ll get a book you can keep!)

So, people wrote in with less alienating suggestions than shaking down your friends for $$: for example, place an address label inside the cover, and if you don’t get the book back within a few weeks, call to say you need it because you’re going to lend it to someone else.

Another woman covers the book in a brown paper wrapper and writes in Magic Marker: “Please return this book to HER NAME.” (Like I would leave on that wrapper while reading the book on the Metro.)

Someone else takes off all the book jackets and writes the borrower’s name inside them. I love this woman because obviously she is buying hardcovers!

Finally, one woman has made up bookmarks with her photo that she includes when she lends out a book so the borrower is reminded of where they obtained the book. Or, more humbly, she also suggested that the photo could be replaced with your name and address.

My solution: The title says it all. I don’t borrow books—I buy books, passing along my meager financial support to writers. And I don’t lend them, either, unless it’s a book I don’t want to get back. Libraries are wonderful places, and they seem to have figured out a system for getting their books returned.

(“Neither a borrower nor a lender be”: sorry, but I can’t help but hear the “Gilligan’s Island” musical version of Hamlet in my head!)


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.