Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Loaning Books

"Never loan a book to someone if you expect to get it back. Loaning books is the same as giving them away."    Doug Coupland

It has been a great pleasure of mine to share my library with many other people. It has been part of my underlying justification for spending far too much money on books. One excuse for a fairly liberal book budget is that I just love books. But then many people love books and books do get to be onerous if you are moving all the time so there needs to be a greater justification for having books in hand and controlling their distribution. And so I've developed another one. My argument goes this way: I'll read the book and then let someone else read it which then in some way may elevate my status in their eyes (perhaps/perhaps not) but then also occasion a conversation between us over the book and thereby contribute to my own greater pleasure of talking about ideas and other things that matter. Yes it's still selfish and self-serving but it works for me.

Until now. The other day I was counting the cost of  loaning out books and then not getting them back. Some of the books I have loaned to others but have not had returned to me are as follows: the complete corpus of Soren Kierkegaard's philosophical works translated into English by Howard and Edna Hong, Walter Brueggemann's Genesis commentary in the Interpretation series, Eugene Peterson's memoir, Pastor, Rowan Williams' book of sermons, A Ray of Darkness, Stanley Hauerwas' The Cross-Shattered Church, and the list could go on. It reminds me of the 1st ed. vinyl pressing of the set Jesus Christ Superstar  by Rice and Webber which I bought while I was in High School. I gave it to a friend to listen to and never got it back. I still think about it.

Then there are the books you loan out and have returned to you in really bad shape. In one case, the person borrowing my Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx dropped it in a small pool of oil. It came back to me rather differently ornamented and accompanied with great apologies, but because it was out-of-print at the time, it could not be replaced and I had decided that perhaps the stains had their own particular beauty. And then I came across a quote from C.S. Lewis in which he says something to the effect that books loaned out and then returned with dog-ears, tears in pages or even damaged covers, will, in the grand scheme of things, emerge with jewels where the damages once were, and even more valuable than the books ever would have been if they had not been shared with others.

So, I continue to share my books, in spite of the losses I have already suffered and knowing that I am sure to suffer more. There is no greater pleasure than to be able to say to someone, "I have just the thing you should read. Here, I'll get it for you." Somehow, I think that that is what books were always about anyway.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flotsam and Jetsam from the Floods of Southern Manitoba

It has been awhile since I last contributed to this blog. No reason really except that other things always seem to take precedence and, face it, one feels that at times there is nothing left to say. For example, when one sees the floods and resulting hardships affecting people you know, the books one reads or movies one sees are relatively trivial by comparison.

But after awhile, there does seem to be a buildup of thought and concern which overtakes the reticence to speak and so one is moved to venture into the blogosphere yet one more time and give words to some inklings and musings which may or may not be fully formed as ideas. At any rate, here goes. These titles form some of the "grist of my mill" over the past month.

Books read: Love Wins by Rob Bell
                    Deep Church - Jim Belcher
                    Irma Voth - Miriam Toews
                    Speaking the Truth - Samuel Wells
                    Absence of Mind - Marilynne Robinson
                    The Paradise of God - Norman Wirzba

Movies watched: The Hereafter - directed by Clint Eastwood
                            Please Give - directed by Nicole Holofcener
                            Into Great Silence - directed by Philip Groening
                            Wittgenstein - directed by Derek Jarman
                            Derrida - directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Hoffman

Music listened to: Small Source of Comfort - Bruce Cockburn
                             Get Lucky - Mark Knopfler
                             So Beautiful or So What - Paul Simon
                             Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes

It is somewhat of a mystery to me as to what lists like this mean to others, except that when I look at other blogs, I always look for lists and what people are reading, watching and listening to. Especially pastors. For me, these lists are little windows on other worlds which have the capacity to surprise, provoke and even challenge my own. That in itself would be a good thing.