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>I had a strange conversation with my director this morning:

Director: Susan, (long pause) you read a lot of books.

Me: Yes, I can’t help it.

Director: When you move, you can leave your books — your novels — here.

Me: Leave my books here?

Director: You can leave your books here (another long pause) if you don’t want them.

Me: Uh, well…okay.

Director: You can bring your novels to the office.

Me: Ummm…okay.

Director: Have a good day.

Me: Uh, yeah…you too! Bye!

I was a little panicked. “You can” is the way my director usually frames his directives. I’ve always figured in the Asian indirectness and translated them to “you must” and we’ve gotten along fine. But my books? Have library, will travel. No way am I leaving 300+ books behind!

After another cup of coffee, I was able to put things into perspective: Still Asian indirectness, but this time, he’s asking for a favor, not wanting to seem greedy. He’s doing what I do, and here’s what he really said: “If you have any books that you don’t want anymore, I’d be happy to take them off your hands.” Yes, my director and I are greedy bibliomaniacs, but you have to speak up here. I still cringe when I remember the Kiwi student who knocked on my door a few years ago: “Hi…I was on my way to the rubbish bin with these books, and then I remembered that you like to read. Want them?”

I also recalled that my director continually hones his English skills by reading novels. He’s delighted when he comes across an idiom, and copies it in a notebook he keeps at the ready. I saw one of his notebooks when I first came to the school. There were pages of idioms from what I think of as the “hardboiled” school of writing, [example: “He was looking for a sock in the jaw.”] and underneath each idiom, a line of Korean writing, presumably giving the literal meaning: [“A punch. Not the item of clothing.”] When my director was on sabbatical in California a few years ago, he hit used bookstores with a vengeance. Although our reading tastes are markedly different, I had a wonderful time checking out the shelves in his office during my first few weeks of work, before I got that first paycheck.

Calmer now, I’m looking at my shelves and discovering novels that I’ve read and can bear to part with. [Stand to part with. Not the animal.]


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