Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shoving Things

How much does it affect your reading/watching/playing/listening to of a book/movie/video game/album to know that someone is waiting blocks or cities or continents away for you to give it back, and to speak intelligently of it, and to share revelations about it, and to now share some common experience of it?

I ask for a few reasons:

1) Recently someone who also works in my building loaned me a novel by an author I wasn't likely to read on my own. The novel had been reviewed positively by the NYT and was literately produced and was populated by intriguing characters but every time I let the pages fall open I thought about how I'd never have selected this book myself. And every time I closed the pages my heart raced as I anticipated the conversation I'd have about this book. Would I talk with coffee about how surprised I was to care for the characters, or complain about the trips in the narrative, or ask about the author, who speaks so ambitiously in the liner notes and who so passionately fills the dialogue of the characters and who has become quiet in the years since?

My anxiety wasn't helped by my coworker's love of the novel. We'd exchanged favorites, so the stakes were fat.

2) I lend books out when the act seems appropriate, and when it seems appropriate I almost actually shove them at people, or fling them, if the people are across rooms. I have left things quietly in people's cars. I've only recently become even close to familiar with non-radio music and I've become similarly evangelistic in my recommendations of albums, too. Sometimes I wonder if my certainty that someone will enjoy a thing turns that someone off to the idea of even experiencing that thing.

3, and the impetus for this post) My shelves are spotted with a small but damning collection of books and albums borrowed more than years ago, most of which I've enjoyed but all of which I've held now too long to give back without anxiety and awkward floor-staring, especially where they concern people whose faces I haven't seen for long stretches of time.

Joe B.: I still have The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Bodysong

Wes B: I still have Can't Get No. It's pretty great!

Sandra S.: I still have Ambivalent Conquests

How do you give these things back? My ideal scenario would be one involving secret address snooping, a wrapped package in the mail, surprise! I didn't steal it. But isn't that also creepy? Wouldn't it lead the recipient to wonder about the public availability of his or her address? And about the ways in which the sender spends his or her time?

So I have a lot of questions for you that are housed within this one: what is your experience of lending and borrowing stories or music? Is it something you avoid or pursue? What changes when you switch from just recommending something to physically handing that something to a friend?

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