Squawk Radio

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Don't ask about the kid on the left. I think he's stomping out moral quandries. Okay-- Brockway can fret about the love life of the wardrobe challenged but I thought I would give the squawkers and the rest of you Emily Post wannabes a real problem.

Here ya go:

You've paid the big bucks for a hardcover copy of a book you've really been wanting to read. The thing is, you've bought it as a present for your boss (I would have said "friend," but if the person was a REAL friend we wouldn't be having this little chat). The question is: Can you read the book before you wrap it up and give it to her/him?

This oughta be good for a few laughs. Squawkers? Squawkettes?

It depends on whether you get caught or not.

In other words, if you are reading the book in a strictly sterile environment and making certain that you handle nothing concurrently that will leave any incrementing evidence (i.e. wine glass rings, coffee mug rings, chocolate stains, or potato chip grease stains) sure! However, do not ever attempt to read a book during a beachside vacation and then gift it as new. Beach sand always finds a way into books. It doesn't matter how much care you take, whether or not you hermetically sealed the book before you hauled it to said beach, if you are only planning to read it while overlooking the beach, you will get caught. The book jacket may look pristine, the pages still smells like the printer's press, and the spine be as stiff as a romance hero's er, neck, but if you have read that book in or near a beach, a telling grain of sand WILL fall out of the pages as soon as the recipient unwraps it and you will be busted.

Or, so I've heard.

Eloisa: I think the real question is....what is the nature of a gift?

A gift is something that you select lovingly, carefully, with due diligence and thought about the person you're giving it to. The best gifts are something that person would like -- not YOU. In fact, gift-giving is not supposed to be about YOU.....Connie! It's supposed to be GOOD -- Connie. You're supposed to KNOW THAT IT's GOOD before you buy it (um, Connie?). So...that implies that you have already read the book in question, right? Unless it's a tool guide for that Sear's lover who sleeps next to you at night, you're supposed to know that you're giving something terrific, not a pig in the poke. That implies that you read the book BEFORE you read it.......Connie!

Teresa: Of course you don't read it before you give it, Brockway! If you're so desperate to partake of the author's sartorial brilliance, the appropriate response is to buy yourself a copy, too! After all, the poor author slaved for months (perhaps even years!) in the lonely solitude of her Barbie and Russell Crowe decorated office to craft each delightful word just for the pleasure of her readers. By offering your giftee "sloppy seconds" as it were, you're not only depriving the said giftee of the joy of perusing a pristine copy of the novel, you're also depriving the struggling author of her royalties. You know--the royalties she uses to put food (or kibble) on the table for her adorable, big-eyed little children (or cats). Not only should you buy a copy of the (Teresa Medeiros) book for yourself, you should also buy a copy for your Aunt Sophie in Anchorage, that friend you haven't seen since high school, and that lovely homeless woman who collects change and screams obscenities out in front of the Salvation Army. When you depart the checkout line at your local bookstore, your arms should be laden with multiple copies of the latest (Teresa Medeiros) novel. Etiquette demands no less!

Christina: So we went to the theater last night to see Tap Dogs. Do you know about this group? They’re six white men dressed in grubby clothes who come out and tap really, really loudly while using power tools, sort of like Riverdance meets Stomp. Except — there are no women. There are no people of any other color but white. So the message is that white guys who dance aren’t nancy-boys, they’re tough and grubby. I wanted to leave at intermission, but that wasn’t possible — they didn’t have intermission! Just an hour and a half of really loud tapping on metal surfaces. I swear, I am never going to another show where the scenery consists of a big sheet of corrugated metal.

I’m sorry, Kitty. What was the question? Oh. Books. This is why I don’t give hardcovers as gifts, because I hate moral dilemmas, especially moral dilemmas I’m going to lose. Speaking of books, I’m autographing THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS (#19 on the New York Times!) in Seattle this weekend. Check my website for times and places!

This is an easy one, Kitty! It has nothing to do with getting caught, or whether a person is a boss, close friend or a despised enemy. I learned a long time ago that if you give a gift, it should be given with no strings attached, no expectations of gratitude, and in the most wholesome and kind-spirited manner one can possibly muster. Which means the book should be in pristine condition and beautifully wrapped. Then you can bask in the feeling that you have done something nice for someone, with no taint of selfishness. This is how gift-giving can benefit the one who gives as much as the one who receives it.
Kitty Kuttlestone, 8:08 PM