Today is the birthday of American novelist Willa Cather (1873-1947). Thinking I'd do a little recreational reading sometime this afternoon, I just scoured my bookshelves for my dog-eared softcover copy of Cather's My Antonia.
It wasn't there.
I freely admit to being a loser. I often lose my sunglasses, my car keys, and sometimes even my mind, but I don't lose truly important things--like books. And in my neighborhood, burglars tend to snatch things like the family silver and large-screen TVs and diamond earrings, not well-loved copies of great American novels. So I can only conclude that my Antonia is currently collecting dust in the home of one of my very own friends or relatives.
Anyone who lends books must accept the possibility that she will never see them again. But while I'm sorely tempted to keep my darlings safe at home, few pleasures compare to telling an interested friend about a book or author and then pressing a treasured volume into her hands: Read this. I guarantee you'll love it.
I've lost a lot of books that way. My beautiful brown-leather-and-gold-trimmed edition of Kipling's Kim is gone. So is a very attractive volume of Robert Browning's poems (that absence was discovered just last week, when I was struggling to remember a line from "My Last Duchess" and went hunting for the book to look it up). I know who has my copy of Jane Austen's Persuasion: she has moved out of the country. But where oh where is my favorite SF novel, Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? And whatever happened to Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss? How could anyone who cares about me deprive me of two George Eliot books?
I hate knowing that some of my beloved books must be lying forgotten in dark closets and damp basements. But I'm still lending books because it's such a thrill to welcome one of the little travelers home and say to its borrower, "I knew you'd love it."
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