When I did my PhD on the American writer Don Delillo, I included a chapter on a novel he’d written pseudonymously and had all but disowned. It was something of a coup. A lot of critics had mentioned it in passing, but nobody seemed to have actually read it. I know this because – once I did read it – it became obvious that the whole thing (written under the name Cleo Birdwell) was some kind of huge conceptual joke*. Apart from being clearly the work of Don Delillo, it included a much-loved character who turned up in his best-known book White Noise .
The (out of print) book, called Amazons: an intimate memoir by the first woman to play in the National Hockey League, was enjoyable and certainly worth a chapter in a thesis, but I foolishly loaned it to someone a couple of years later – and never got it back. It was someone I worked with, and he left that job. I couldn’t even tell you his name now, have no chance of tracking him down on FaceBook and begging for it back. $33 plus shipping is the cheapest on Amazon.com, though I could probably find cheaper, if I was willing to pay shipping for what amounts to a whim: I don’t need it, and I’m unlikely to enjoy reading it again.
If I knew the guy’s name, the magic of the internet might help me to track him down, though it might seem a bit odd to ask for it six or seven years down the road. I’m sure most people have had the experience of lending something to someone (which you often do with things you really love, because you want other people to love them) and then losing touch, or finding it too embarrassing to request a return.
If only there was a web site that facilitated some kind of lend/borrow scheme, a kind of personal library service that allowed you to lend things to your friends and stand a good chance of getting them back. We’ve all got shelves full of books, CDs, DVDs, computer games, that we rarely if ever play.
LendAround offers to be such a service. It appears from its press release to be US-biased, which is a black mark against it, but it aims to be a kind of social networking site for lenders and borrowers, encouraging its users to get those dusty shelved items in circulation.
It’s in private beta at the moment, which means it’s invitation-only. If I had any friends I might consider signing up.
* A conceptual joke, by the way, is one that should be familiar to NME readers of the late 1970s.