Friday, February 11, 2005

marginalia

this is a revised version of last night's xanga post. because I decided it was good enough for blogspot:

I think I may have acheived my dream of becoming the sort of person who writes in books. It took a certain amount of confidence in my initial response to do something so permanent - mar the book with underlinings, or even a jotted association in the margin. I'm still more of a underliner than jotter, although I've been known to include the occasional ! to denote something particularly exclamation-worthy. I don't know if this will continue or not, though. I tend to start out a book or a semester all underline-crazy and then settle down again toward the end. So maybe this is deceptive.

the reason I wanted to be this sort of person in the first place is because I like the idea that someone could borrow a book from me or pick up something off my shelf and be able to know not only that I have that book, but what I thought of it while I was reading. What seemed important or noteworthy or beautiful or unbeleivable. I like having my voice quietly in the background of the book pointing things out or adding emphasis.

Billy Collins has a fabulous poem about reading books with such notes in them called "Marginalia." He sort of romanticises those margin-writers and I wanted to be one. I would REALLY like to be the girl who writes "pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love." but I'll take what I can get with my little underlinings and things like "echos of Jane Austen" scribbled in the margin, and hope someone wonders what sort of person wrote that brilliant comment. or underlined that irrelevant sentence. It's like a reception history, all in one volume.

3 comments:

Morgan Foster said...

I was never a jotter nor an underliner, however, I always loved getting a used book for a class, only to discover that whoever had the book before me was a jotter or an underliner. And I felt very justified at that point in just reading what they underlined. However, nothing is worse than getting to the end of the semester and realizing that whoever had your book before you was also dumb, as well as an underliner.

bethany said...

I myself am not a big fan of textbooks with anonymous underlinings because I am suspicious of the previous owner - too many of those "wait, this person was an underliner, but also dumb" moments. Also has something to do with my high estimation of my own intelligence, I would imagine. Borrowed books from people I know/respect are another story entirely. Refer to previous blog entry.

Katherine said...

I read a borrowed copy of "Beloved." When I got to a passage that was particularly thrilling (it had to do with what church feels like), the owner of the book had written a little note for me because he knew I would love it. It was such a delightful surprise. It didn't make me any more of a margin-writer, though!