DEAR MISS MANNERS: A gentleman I know only because he’s married to an old high school classmate has written and self-published a rather long novel on a topic I know and care nothing about. In a recent online get-together with his wife and some of our other high school chums, he asked if he could “pitch” his book to us, then proceeded to describe the book, where it could be purchased and for what price. We all politely expressed our admiration for his achievement.
Yesterday, a copy of the book arrived at my home. I immediately thanked the author in neutral terms: “Imagine my surprise when I discovered a copy of your tome on my doorstep! It is a handsome volume, indeed. Thanks so much for adding it to my library!”
But now I am at a loss as to what to do when he inevitably queries me about what I thought of it. I don’t want to lie, yet I also don’t want to hurt this fellow’s feelings about a work he says he wrote over a 35-year period.
GENTLE READER: Would you consider it a lie to say, “I’m looking forward to reading it”?
Yes? Well, then, how about, “I’m anxious to read it”?
“Anxious” doesn’t mean the same thing as “eager,” you know. And you do sound to Miss Manners as if you are truly anxious at the prospect of having to read it.