Book curse

November 18, 2018 § 8 Comments

You simply cannot give people books. Please don’t do it. It is a terrible idea every time, so don’t. Just don’t.

The first and most obvious reason to never give anyone a book is because they will never read it, ever. Take, for example, the 984-page opus boringus that I “gave” a “friend” more than five years ago, a biography of Stalin. He writes regularly to say that he still hasn’t read it.

And we both know he never will. The fact that it won a major prize and the author was his wife’s ex is totally unrelated.

The second reason to never give anyone a book is because even it weren’t written by their wife’s ex, it insults them. When you give a book you are telling the “friend” that you know something they don’t, and you would like to ameliorate their pitiful ignorance. Take, for example, the 732-page book that I “gave” a “friend” last year, a novel about a man, a sheep, some catacombs, a compass, three blind wise men, and an odyssey through the Outback. He hasn’t spoken to me since.

The third reason to never give anyone a book is because it is clutter. Old, dead, musty, stinky trees filling up your spacious modern home, or your tiny apartment, or your full-to-busting study? No one in the history of time ever received a book and said, “I know exactly where to put that!” Everyone in the history of time said, “FML! Where am I going to put that?” Or their wife did, and the answer was usually “the dumpster.”

Nor can you fix it by sending them a digital copy, which simply clutters up their already maxed-out iPhone which, like Manslaughter’s, has 10,283 unread text messages, 25,019 unread emails, and a full voicemail box. Or is it a voice mailbox?

Most poisonous of all, however, is the fact when you give a book you are certain to receive one as vengeance, and you will hate it. It will be about ceramic molecular structure, or the sex life of dead people, or a teen vampire novel. Whatever topic you hate most, that’s the one it will be, and whichever author you abhor, she will have written it.

Heavy with the ugly unwanted gift comes of course the heavier and even less wanted obligation to read it, which you won’t, and the concomitant obligation to lie about having read it, which you will. Maybe you will see the friend from across a crowded room and you will scurry to hide behind the cheese tray, but unlucky you! The gift book was about cheese and your nemesis will track you down and glow as he pins you next to the Camembert and asks, “How did you like the book?” knowing full well you either hated it, didn’t read it, or hopefully both. You will silently shake your fist at him, and he at you.

The more you try to figure out a way to pass on a book, especially a wonderful one, the harder it is. You know how friends don’t give friends used underwear and shirts? Books are like that. They simply never fit. The book that changed your life and that you have only decided to pass on after careful consideration and yea, even love? That is guaranteed to be the one book the friend actually does read.

“How did you like the book?” you will ask hopefully, desperately, longingly, after having pestered him for a year.

The friend will look up from his phone, ever so briefly interrupting the flow of vital information about Black Friday online sales. “Uh, it was okay,” he will say, wounding you forever.

So just don’t.



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§ 8 Responses to Book curse

  • Toronto says:

    Bananas do in fact ripen more evenly when positioned on a bed of Eliot, Hemingway and Marquez – that perfect combination of a despairing soul, a confessional boozing soldier and an unrequited and tortured lover never disappoints.

    Unless I am bedridden without Netflix, or institutionalized or on a 13 hour flight to Saigon the likelihood of me tackling a 700 page tome is as likely as me riding my bike from here to Gibraltar Road and back in one day.

    Which reminds me. I stumbled upon you one evening as you sat at CotKU marinating in your delirious post Gibraltar ride haze. I was on my way to a reading at Pages bookstore by James Frey. His new novel, ‘Katerina’ is 320 pages. I have about 60 pages left and even though it has sat on my nightstand since my last trip I have yet to pick it up and finish it. Thankfully I am flying this week and I am committed to pushing thru in main cabin to the finish line. It will be the only book that I have read this year.

    And I can commiserate. I once gave a friend a copy of ‘The World Rushed In’. He couldn’t finish it.

    But he shouldn’t feel so bad – neither did I.

    • fsethd says:

      Haaaaah! Bananas ripening on just the right book! Best comment ever, and from a real reader no less!

  • Tamar Toister says:

    I read books on my Kindle app on my iPhone. It’s become my go-to self soothing activity. And yes, I have found when I have read a particular hardcover book that I want to share with my friends who have similar interests (Spitting in the Soup, for instance) it’s very hard to get one to take it from you and I end up donating it to Goodwill.

  • Vlad Luskin says:

    For Trade: A bio of Stalin, given by a “friend” to feed recipient’s inferiority complex. In excellent condition — not a page turned.

    Wanted: A novel about a man, a sheep, catacombs, three blind mice, etc.

    (Contact Wanky to facilitate the trade.)

    Love ya, Seth 🤪🤪🤪❤️❤️❤️

  • hughbike says:

    In 1982, you were prolly in Austin right? I was in Groton, CT- the “Submarine Capital of the World”. By then I had gotten my GED, went straight to Electric Boat (at the time employing most of SE CT), become a full-on stoner and drunk, quit to wash dishes, and sidled laterally into 6 or 8 or 10 successive cooking gigs. I finally found that let me drink for free and stayed awhile. This place was called Mystic and was where all the folks who had managed to get a degree and a better job lived. Mystic was lily-white and had historic homes with families of college-bound kids who came home for Thanksgiving from their first semester away at UMASS Amherst or Bowdoin or any of the small liberal arts throughout New England with the single-minded determination to persuade friends and family that was are all gonna die in a fiery and nuclear blast unless we did something *RIGHT NOW*…well I got persuaded and became a True Believer and my “Right Now” was to give everyone I cared about a copy of “The Fate of the Earth” by Jonathan Schell. I was very earnest as I passed out these books, at least 20 of them, imploring my friends and family to “really think about the ramifications of the arms race.” These were xmas gifts too…the only person who really cared about this book was the owner of the bookstore where I bought ’em- she was thrilled.

    No one ever followed-up w/ me on the book- I knew it was hopeless. My co-workers were still mad at me for starting a recycling program at the restaurant, they prolly just “recycled” their copy too

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