In the margins

22 Jun

Reading this article* on the New Yorker today got me thinking about the sin of writing in books. I personally don’t partake in it – the goody-good in me baulks at the thought of writing in a book in anything but the lightest of pencils. Oddly though, I love finding the notes others have written in books from the library or a secondhand store. Reading a book is such a private affair, so I enjoy a little jolt from the book’s past life. I usually race through books, eager to reach the story’s dénouement. But when I come to an underlined passage or a phantom question mark in a margin, I stop and take heed. What is my book’s ex-lover trying to tell me?

The funniest ones are always the ranters. Tiny script covering every spare inch of white space on the page, informing me that this author has omitted something vital!!! Or that they vehemently disagree!!! And what about this contradiction, huh?!! (My book’s ex-lovers always are heavy-handed with the exclamation marks).

Maybe I will pick up a pencil next time I am reading and leave a note for posterity.

* I love Mark Twain’s dismissal of The Heavenly Twins, the hilarious expression of a reader’s rage at having perservered with a less-than-worth-it novel: ‘A cat could do better literature than this.’


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