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Kinship of the Bookish Sort: On the Pleasures of Literary Lending

The list of people to whom I will entrust my favourite books is rather short. My mother, who has been known to read borrowed books with gloves on “so I don’t get fingerprints on the cover, of course,” is at the top of the list. Following this gold standard of neurotic book borrowing runs the gamut of friends and family members who have a demonstrated track record for returning my beloved books in a timely fashion, intact, without cracking the spine or dog-earing the pages.

It is, predictably, a very short list.

Each time I lend out a particular favourite, it is with a frisson of fear. Will the person take proper care of it? Are they the civilized sort with the good sense to use a bookmark? Is there a non-zero chance that they will be so bold as to take this book with them into the bath? How likely is it that food or drink will consumed in the vicinity of the crisp, pristine pages? I realize these thoughts make me a fusspot of the highest order, and while I firmly defend others’ right to highlight, write in, bend, fold and generally destroy their own books, I cannot abide even the thought of keeping a library full of such abuse. (At this point, I am too old to change my ways; I am what I am.)

But foremost in my mind, and more important than any of these thousand other trivial worries, is the nagging question: Will they love the book as I do?

I’ve come to think of book lending as a bit of an art form, and, as any successful artist is only too quick to tell you, you have to know your audience. After years of experience, I know better than to press my favourite books to the hands of my best friend. We have plenty in common, and goodness knows she puts up with my odd proclivities like a champ, but our reading preferences are too dissimilar to make literary lending anything but a lesson in disappointment. My rhapsodizing over a droll satirical novel to a woman whose reading life is dominated by true crime accounts of people with horrific childhoods, well … it goes about exactly as well as you’d think it might. Which is to say not at all.

On the other hand, I positively adore lending books to my aunt, whose literary tastes echo mine. In any given half dozen books that I bring her, she unerringly manages to express appreciation for my secret favourites. It’s a thrill in and of itself. We don’t need to have an impromptu book club-style discussion about it. We don’t need to wax poetic on the characters or the setting, or the finer plot points. But there is something special there: that cliché warm and fuzzy feeling. All those small stresses—about the proper care and feeding of my books, about a whether each title will be appreciated—they all melt away. Sharing becomes a joy.

And therein lies the gratification of lending books. In my mushy, poetic moments, I think that sharing my favourite books can be like sharing bits and pieces of my soul. Those books can express preferences and predilections, dreams and desires much better than I ever could myself. Finding someone who likes the same books I do is like discovering a special type of kinship. It’s a recognition and an affirmation.

“Oh. You like it, too. It’s not just me.”

It’s lovely.

 

PortraitThis post was inspired by and is dedicated to my wonderful Aunt Carol, who, I’m reliably informed, reads this blog. Enjoy the latest batch of books!

Cheers,Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 26 Jul 2019

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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Hey there Quill fans! Thanks for clicking through our best bookish links of the week. We hope you learned something new and interesting.

All the best,
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Out and About with the Quill: 2019 Detroit Festival of Books

This Sunday, I absconded with a friend and trundled over to Detroit to participate in the 3rd annual Detroit Festival of Books at the historic (and beautiful!) Eastern Market. The weather was perfect for the event–not too hot, not too cold, no rain to mar the day–and it attracted a large crowd of book lovers. If you missed it, here are some lovely photographs of the event and its environs. Many thanks to Paulette for her photography skills.

Eastern Market shed

The Detroit Festival of Books took place at Eastern Market, a very beautiful and very cool venue for homemade goods, flowers and farm fresh produce.

Dedication plaque for Eastern Market

The market dates back to 1922, though most of the sheds have been renovated and modernized while still retaining their charm.

Shed 3 at Eastern Market

The Detroit Book Fest was housed in Shed 3 this year, a gorgeously updated cross-shaped shed with massive cooling fans and eye-catching exposed roof girders.

Detroit Festival of Books sign.

Visitors were welcomed by a massive sign, and surrounded by bookish vendors and artisans.

People browsing vendor tables in Shed 3

Book lovers browsed the wares housed by the massive shed, which is itself architecturally stunning.

PQL vendor table at Detroit Bookfest.

Our little PQL table featured a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry from our frontlist and backlist.

PQL books on display.

Vendor’s-eye-view behind the table.

 

PortraitMany thanks to all those who stopped by the table to pick up a new title or chat about books and reading. Always glad to be among bookish folks! And special thanks as well to my friend Paulette, for her company and her photos.

Cheers,Steph

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 19 Jul 2019

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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Happy to see you here this scorching Friday. Enjoy our bookish roundup, and if you get a moment, pop on over to the Rerouted page, where you can pick up a print copy of this fabulous short story debut!

Cheers,
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This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain on Editing. A Literary PSA…

I’ve recently fallen into a bit of a rut when it comes to my work tasks. Timing and to-do lists have conspired to ensure that my normally diversified work diet has become a bit more homogeneous than I often enjoy. Indeed, these last few weeks, the lion’s share of my time has been dedicated to editing in some way, shape or form, and readers, it has put me off my proverbial feed.

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The lion, known for its proverbial “share”. This lion’s share represents my time spent editing laltely.

You can probably guess that I am, by nature and inclination, a reader. Nothing pleases me so much as a rainy day spent curled up with a book, engaging in that most relaxing of pursuits, pleasure reading. But lately, I’ve found that my steady diet of editorial roughage, shall we say, has somewhat ruined my appetite for my usual off-the-clock literary snacks.

I’ve found that editing temporarily changes my brain, whether I’m performing big-picture substantive editing or more small-scale line editing and copyediting. When I approach my first or second read of a book with a substantive eye, my brain zeroes in on logic, questioning every facet of plot and character, examining motive and means. Would that character use that particular wording? Is the passage of time true to life? Is this coincidence believable or is it just convenient? This kind of laser focus can make for a stronger manuscript, but it can make pleasure reading ponderous as hell.

scribe copying book onto paper

Fun fact: you will likely never have as many books and papers on your desk as when you’re editing a book.

But if I find it hard to switch off that logic-questioning part of my brain when I’m knee-deep in editing a manuscript, it’s nearly impossible to approach pleasure reading with any kind of appreciation when I’m in the middle of copyediting a book. I often find it difficult to start copyediting a manuscript because it takes so long for me to fall into the groove. I have to force myself to pay attention to the most minute of details, to stop and start whenever I need to look up a name or check the Canadian spelling of a word, or refer to the Chicago Manual of Style on one of the million and one intricacies of hyphenating compound words. But once I’m in the zone, I’m in it ‘til the bitter end. At that point, if I pick up a book to read for fun, I invariably put it down because I keep finding myself wondering about misplaced commas or pausing over American spellings. I find it hard to follow plot and characterization when I’m constantly distracted by grammar and spelling. When I find myself reaching for pen and paper to record proper names that need checking, I know it’s time to put my book aside and find other ways to relax my brain.

So, bereft of pleasure reading, what’s a porcupette to do? Well, there’s television on occasion—I caught some of the Wimbledon men’s championship this weekend, which was quite the nail-biter. And there are always errands to run—lately I’ve been wandering around town looking for decorative knobs for a desk I plan to refinish. Plus, in the summer, there’s always a friend or two up for an outdoor adventure. So while I might wistfully think of all the books in my library waiting to be read, right now, I’m quite content to give them a short vacation while my mind works on overtime!

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Thanks for visiting and listening to my bookish musings. Hope you enjoyed this peek inside my literary brain!

Cheers,Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 12 July 2019

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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Hope you enjoyed this week’s link roundup. Have a great weekend full of books and reading!

All the best,
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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.