06 January 2009

A book lover's nightmare

Today I will confess a milestone I reached a few days ago I had hoped to postpone for years and years. No, I didn't get reading glasses. But you be the judge and see if this is worse.

On Sunday, I found myself buying a book I knew I already owned and couldn't find.

The book was LOLITA, which my book club is doing at the end of this month. I read it originally in 2002, I think, so I needed the refresher -- but my Vintage paperback copy (see cover, left) was nowhere to be found at my parents' house.

A short biography of the missing book: I'm pretty sure I got it from a girl who was planning to leave it behind in St. Petersburg, Russia, and read it either there or soon after I got home. After that, it is all speculation. Then I must've lent it to my sister -- or maybe my mom? Or both? Maybe Mom lent it to someone after her book club did READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN? Or it could be that I sold it or gave it away in one of my many moves since then. Sold it on a side street in Madrid? Dropped it in a box for African schools at my college bookstore?

Our meeting's still a few weeks away, but I need to get cracking on Nabokov's incredibly dense prose now. So with a heavy heart I entered Local Large Chain Bookstore and bought another copy, whose cover is not as memorable, and which I left on my nightstand for fear it too will disappear.

I figured having to replace a book because I couldn't find it might happen to me someday. I just didn't realize it would be so soon. See also: I still have too many books.


Jess said...

This is what the Kindle is for! You can't misplace anything, you can search electronically, and nobody can make you lend them your books anymore!

Ellen said...

That is an excellent point, Jess -- although I don't think I was reluctant at the time to lend the book out.

Emily said...

you know what i think is worse, and what i think you might agree with me about given your unbookening (a project i will never, ever, ever attempt because i am a packrat)? buying a book you think you might own but don't realize you already have, and then realizing it's a duplicate.

Ellen said...

Emily, I have had some very near misses on that account. Just a few weeks ago I picked up an interesting-looking book at the library, only to belatedly remember that not only had I read it, I reviewed it. Oops.

Wade Garrett said...

I recently came across clearance paperback copies of Kavalier & Clay and The Corrections while I was home, and I almost bought then just so that I could have a lighter, easier-to-read-on-the-subway copy of two of my favorite hardcover volumes, just in case I ever wanted to read them again. Then I realized that a recession was on and that wasting $10 on copies of books I already owned just because they would be easier to carry IF I decided to read them again, when I already own dozens of books I haven't read, was one of the more wasteful things I could have done.

Ellen said...

Yep, almost done that as well... and believe it or not The Corrections was one of the books for which I almost bought a second copy. (It is such an unwieldy hardcover!) I haven't re-read it yet, but when I do I guess I'll just find a friend who has the paperback.

Elizabeth said...

WG: Don't feel bad. If it's only $10, it can't be that wasteful. (The upper limit on how much you could have wasted is only $10, not even getting into the arguments about supporting bookstores, stimulating the economy, etc.)

Not putting money into an IRA, for example, is much more wasteful, because so much more cash is at stake. Even if you got into a habit of buying unnecessary paperbacks, you would have to buy quite a few before you got into the range of one poor investment decision (which, let's face it, we've all made).

This is why statements like how dried beans are "more economical" than canned beans are, no matter how much I like Mark Bittman, just silly: it's true that canned beans are a very large fraction more expensive than dried beans, but the cans just aren't that expensive, so there's a cap on how much you can save by switching to dried.

This is also why we should express fuel efficiency as gpm, not mpg, because it better illustrates how much money you can save by buying a more efficient car.

Elizabeth said...

So yesterday I went to the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Women's Board's book sale (whose proceeds went to patient care...because we won't care for patients unless we sell enough books?), and I picked up for cheap a few volumes that I'd been meaning to read anyway, for cultural literacy purposes, including THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, by Mark Haddon.

...Turns out Morgan already has a copy he borrowed from his grandfather.

Do I ever feel silly!