Top 5 Books I’ve Lent To People (And Not Got Back Yet)

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An Unfortunate Woman
An Unfortunate Woman

5. An Unfortunate Woman by Richard Brautigan

This is one of my favourite Richard Brautigan novels, and I often feel alone in liking it so much. Most people, if they like Richard Brautigan, will want to talk a lot about Sombrero Fallout (which I like a lot too), or Trout Fishing in America (yep). I just don’t think I’ve ever really talked that much about An Unfortunate Woman much with anyone. It’s very autobiographical. It was written in a notebook and discovered/published after Richard Brautigan’s suicide. There’s no real plot as such, it’s just about a man called Richard Brautigan, wandering around, thinking about things and writing them down in a notebook. There’s a lot of death hanging over this book, too; it starts with an account of a close friend’s death, and after you finish it, you can’t help but think about the author killing himself. It’s sweet and sad and funny and strange, like all Richard Brautigan’s writing. I lent this book (hardback, UK first edition) to my friend Joe, about a month ago. I feel like there’s a 96% chance I’ll get this book back, in exactly the same condition I leant it to him.


4. Distortions by Ann Beattie

This short story collection by Ann Beattie was published at the same time as her debut novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter. Chilly Scenes of Winter is one of my favourite novels and there are lots of moments in this story collection which I find just as enjoyable as Chilly Scenes… I’ve tried to read other later Ann Beattie novels and not really enjoyed them as much. I was given this book (2nd hand, 70’s(?) US pocket-size paperback) by Tao Lin during a week’s holiday in New York in May, 2008. I lent it to my friend Sally sometime during late 2009/early 2010 I think, so it has been on loan now for roughly three years. Interestingly, I bumped into Sally in a pub beer garden about six months ago and she had this book in her bag at the time (but for a reason unknown even to myself, I made no attempt to ask for it back). I feel like there’s a 79.5% chance I’ll get this book back, in roughly the same condition I lent it to her.

The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen
The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen

3. The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen by Gerald Locklin

I bought this book from a Waterstones in Birmingham with some Christmas money or book tokens from relatives in 2002, when I was about 21. I was initially drawn to the pale blue spine and then when I looked at the back, it had a quote from Charles Bukowski (“I like Gerald Locklin. I like his stuff. He swings from the heels, pukes from the bathroom… he’s open and he calls the shots”) and I was going through a big Charles Bukowksi phase at the time. This book was published by Wrecking Ball press in the UK. It’s a sort of deadpan/existential detective comedy spoof thing. I remember each of the page-long ‘chapters’ has a title and sometimes the chapter will be a sentence or even just a word long. I remember finding that ‘audacious’ at the time. I remember enjoying this book a lot when I read it, but wonder whether I’d still enjoy it quite so much now. I lent this book to a man called Alex in late 2003, at an informal writing group thing I was part of in Nottingham, where about five or six of us would meet up every few weeks in a pub and provide commentary on each others’ short stories. I feel like there’s a 0.001% chance I’ll get this book back, in any sort of condition at all.

You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am
You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am

2. you are a little bit happier than i am by Tao Lin

I ordered this book into the Manchester Deansgate branch of Waterstones while working there in 2007. I’d just found out about ‘internet writing’ and felt extremely, almost breathlessly excited about this book when it came in. I still think it’s great; so much of the ‘internet poetry’ I read seems like it comes almost directly from this book. I always find myself interested in tracing where literary influence comes from, when I particularly like a writer or certain type of writing, and with a lot of Alt-Lit/Internet poetry, I feel like this book is extremely influential/instrumental/whatever you want to call it. I vaguely remember lending this book while drunk to someone at a party in my old flat, maybe, in 2009. Possibly it was my friend Sam, although I’ve since asked him whether he has it and he’s said no. I have a hunch that if I could just be bothered to put a thing out on Facebook along the lines of ‘has anyone got my copy of You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am?’ someone will respond affirmatively. For that reason, I feel like there’s an 85% chance I’ll get this book back, in nearly the same condition (possibly a bit more creased/folded, especially around the cover) I lent it to whomever it was I lent it to.

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories
The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories

1. The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories by William Saroyan

I found this book in a second hand bookshop, possibly in Leamington Spa or Warwick or Stratford Upon Avon, around the year 2000 (I think I had it while I was still at university). I didn’t know anything at all about William Saroyan at the time, I just took it down off a shelf due to the interesting yellow and black spine, and when I read the first line of the first short story (“I hadn’t had a haircut in forty days and forty nights, and I was beginning to look like several violinists out of work.”), I felt extremely excited and hopeful that I’d discovered something that I would enjoy an awful lot. (I was right.) I love this whole collection, it’s written with an incredible energy and all the stories are kind of nuts and freewheeling and (in my opinion) an awful lot of fun to read. I’ve since read a number of other collections and novels by William Saroyan after enjoying this book so much, but never really had quite the same experience reading them that I had reading and re-reading this book. I have absolutely no idea who I lent this book to (it was a paperback, Faber edition, from maybe the late 60s’, and the outside had been reinforced with a sort of clear plastic film), and for some reason suspect a Facebook enquiry will in this instance prove fruitless. I feel like there’s a 16.33% chance I’ll get this book back, in any sort of condition at all. TC mark

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