1. Archive


Q: I am an avid reader, but life is short, and the time allotted to reading even more so. I have a fairly good-sized cabinet lined with books I fully intend to read.

Despite these volumes, I still add to this pile, perhaps compulsively. Friends often foist upon me books they are sure I will enjoy. I can't imagine when.

Sometimes I have the presence of mind to at least determine whether it is a loan or a gift. I can say, "Oh, thank you so much, but it may be quite some time before I get to this and am able to return it to you." But then the response is, "Take your time, no hurry." Or, "Don't worry, I've read it," or some other such ambiguous response.

Certainly I don't feel obligated to read it, but after a time, should I return it? If so, what do I say?

Even if it is a gift, shouldn't I offer some feedback after a time? How can I nicely say, "the gesture was appreciated, but I will never read the book"?

How sure do I need to be that it is a gift before I pass it on to some charitable organization that may, indeed, put it in the hands of someone who will enjoy reading it?

A: Finding out whether it is a present is certainly key, because then you will have to accept it and express your thanks before getting rid of it.

When in doubt, you do this by saying, "Will you eventually be wanting this back?"

If the answer is no, and your initial plea of not being able to get to it does not work, Miss Manners is afraid you must accept it. And though she understands the annoyance of housing something that does not fit into your reading plans, she suggests at least a quick glance, because a friend's recommendation should carry a little weight.

If that glance enables you to pretend you have read it, then return it with thanks after a month, making sure to choose an occasion when you will not have the opportunity for aliterary discussion with the lender.

If not, you should give it storage until the lender inquires about it, when you may return it with apologies.

Just the name, please

Q: As a single gentleman, I am somewhat puzzled as to whether I should introduce my lady companion to others at a social event or let her introduce herself. If I were married, I would say, "I would like you to meet my wife . . ."

I have sometimes asked my companion whether she would like to introduce herself, but I'm unsure if this is correct. In short, does a gentleman always introduce the lady he's brought to a social engagement, regardless of the status of their relationship?

A: Or does he abandon her to her fate because he has no nameable attachment to her?

Miss Manners is shocked. If you bring a guest to a social event, of course you must introduce her around. An explanation of why you brought her is hardly necessary. All you have to know is her name.

Address your etiquette questions to Miss Manners, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.