Where the noblest go wrong. We give somebody the best that we have until at last love has nothing left to give: but he who receives it has certainly not received in it the best that he has, and consequently fails to evidence that completeness of gratitude which the giver counted upon.

— Nietzsche, Daybreak

Patrick Kurp should have put a trigger warning on this post:

It has happened again. I loaned a book and it came back not destroyed but damaged. An old-fashioned word comes to mind: sullied. In this case, soiled, scuffed and with a page dog-eared.

I…just…I…ugh, God! What kind of barbarian dog-ears a page in someone else’s book? Dueling should be allowed under these circumstances. I would hire a gypsy woman to place a curse on the miscreant causing him to incur a paper cut on the webbing between his fingers every time he turns a page for the rest of his life. Hey, since superhero movies are all the rage, I’d also like to see a movie about a vigilante who lurks in coffee shops, meting out justice to the over-caffeinated freaks who seem to think, “Gee, I need a coaster, but I don’t have one. What can I—ah, perfect! A pristine hardcover book! Let me just use my jittery hand to set this overfull mug—” At which point our hero would intervene, and I would stand up in the theater and loudly cheer.

My philosophy teacher told us once how she never lent anything. If I can afford to give it to you, I will, she would tell people, but lending too often creates tension and hard feelings. I had a friend (note the past tense) who would borrow books and not only fail to read them in a timely manner, she would forget she even had them, or even worse, forget they weren’t hers to begin with. First, I’d feel annoyed by her failure to grasp the significance of the loan — books are very important to me! we could have built a conversation around this if you had read it! — and then I’d feel embarrassed on her behalf as I considered whether to remind her. Then I’d feel irritated with myself for feeling awkward about asking for my own damned book to be returned sometime within, oh, the next year or so, and finally, I’d feel grumpy with her for causing the whole mess through her scatterbrained thoughtlessness. Ms. McCarty was correct: only loan things you can live with never seeing again.