15 August 2008

Standing Apart

This post is part #6 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Parts #3, #4 and #5 contain relevant squawking.

I met up with a friend this afternoon who is a borrower of my books, but not a reader of my blog. When she asked what I was up to, I told her that I was busy writing and obsessing about my missing books.

"I think I have one of them," she said. I thought she was probably right.

We finished our iced teas and dropped by her home to grab the novel. When we got to her bookcase, I spotted the title almost immediately, Zadie Smith's name in a familiar white typeset.

"It was really good," she said, handing me Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants.

Mildly surprised, I accepted the book (one of my most enjoyable reads of the past year). "Oh! I thought you were returning On Beauty," I said.

"Is that yours, too?" It was, according to the name on the inside cover.

A funny thing happened once these books were returned. I no longer really cared about the list. I didn't feel as incredulous about the shear number of books that had made their way out of my home. I didn't want them back solely on the principle that they were mine, dammit, all mine!

Even though I liked both of these books very much, I knew wasn't going to re-read them any time soon. I didn't really need to have two more books to decorate the shelf. In fact, the only enjoyment I got from having the books returned was the opportunity to have a discussion with someone whose opinion mattered to me.

Driving home, I debated about whether to abandon this series altogether. Its scale felt too epic, and this development sort of extinguished the flame that was propelling my little paper blogger boat. Eventually I decided to finish the series because at this point I really need to have the accomplishment of seeing a project through to the end.

I looked over the fraction of the list that had these two titles, Modern Fiction by Women. My notes for how to introduce the section were sparse, "Ladies First" scratched out in the margin. Loosely scrawled on the bottom of the page was a messy lament, "Shouldn't have to distinguish... these ladies stand apart."

Modern Fiction by Women was made up of nine titles. They ranged from the vivacious and picante Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel to The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif's sprawling but intricate exploration of romantic love in Egypt at the turn of two centuries.

One title, however, stands apart from the books on list. I mean the entire list because it is probably one of my favorite books of all time, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

O! Kind borrower, please return this book. Or at least let me know if I need to buy a new one! It's the only one I really want back...

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