After finishing Jeremy Lewis’s Kindred Spirits, I’m tempted to get the sequel, Grub Street Irregular. In this case, horrors upon horrors, “get” translates to “plunk down my own money to buy”. Lest you peg me as incorrigibly acquisitive or shamefully Scrooge — either one of which you may well have good reason to think by the end of this post — let me explain the winding (but not too long) path by which I reached that realization.
I want to read Grub Street Irregular, but only for that most selfish of reasons — my own enjoyment. I don’t even want to read it at any time in the immediately following weeks. (I’m moving; I have a bunch of library books on my shelf that I have to zip through and return before I move; I have a book whose check-out time is a week (a week!), 4 days of which are already gone; I have left enough of my own books languishing because of their unlimited availability.) All these tangential concerns aside, having ruled out Grub Street as a book that I will heavily annotate, I turned to my tried, true, and cheap method for getting my hands on the grub: the library.
Or, libraries, to be more precise. The university library, for all the obscure, far-flung materials that it holds, does not have Grub. Onward to the local public library website; some taps on the keyboard, a couple of clicks, and I find that Grub is not its collection either. Perhaps I can get the book from one of the library’s 46 partner institutions? I jumped on the Link+ catalog, ever hopeful. Alas, the consortium has all of Lewis’s writings, excepting his autobiographies. I’m now silently cursing the difficulty books have hopping across the pond (in popularity at least, if not physical form). The American reading public and librarianship do not attach much significance to English publishing, I’m sad to conclude. Nonetheless, loathed to give up the game, I racked my brain for alternatives. Aha! What about the institution at which I’m going to be a student this fall? Not only does it have extensive holdings, as befitting a research university, but it’s also part of the Melvyl system of 7 California University Libraries. Here, then? No Grub at my soon-to-be home institution, but it is at 3 of the sister libraries. Hallelujah!
Now, the question is, how shameless am I? At my soon-to-be old institution, the borrowing policy is explicit, if enforced only by the honor code. A patron is to request an interlibrary loan only for research purposes, which Grub Street, for me, is definitely not. I don’t know what the policy is at my new home, but the uncertainty is sufficient to deter me.
So should I buy the book? Cost is no hurdle, but the justification for acquiring the book is. What are the reasons, besides those of scholarship, for buying a book? As somebody who hardly ever re-read and who find little need to have books at my fingertips for instant reference, I’m curious as to why others buy books. Impulse? Books-do-decorate-a-room sentiment? Annotative needs? Books as depository of fond memories? I needn’t assert that all these are legitimate because a) of course, they are and b) nobody needs me to legitimize their consumption patterns. I’m merely curious as to “the lives of others”.
I will end on this note
Update 4/27/2012: Seven months after writing this post about buying Grub Street, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally started reading it. Finishing, however, is another matter altogether.