Thursday, February 10, 2011

Underlining, I Was Cringing


Do you write in your books? I underline and write in the margins. When I was in college and grad school and grad school, I took most of my lecture notes in the very books we were talking about! Lately, however, (did you know you're really NOT supposed to begin a sentence with however?) I have begun feeling badly about writing in my books. I used to think that writing in my books would be like a kind of legacy. I don't really have much besides books and books are all I care about really, besides knitting. So to read a book that I've read is to know a little about me, what I underlined and bracketed or checked. (I don't know the difference between those things, but that seems to be my system).

Does this mean I'm growing up? I started thinking about this when the old man and I started a book club with several of our friends. We have to share the same book or buy it twice, which doesn't make much sense. The first book we read, William Carlos Williams's (the Carlos saves the day here) Spring and All and the old man wrote all up in it. I couldn't wade through his notes, which really read like a bunch of jibber jabber. Then I couldn't tell if I was reading Spring and All for the old man's notes. Let us say the old man writes like four people were simultaneously holding one pen and trying to write one thing together while on a train.

I asked him not to take so many notes in our book club books and he now writes in a little journal, which I think is pretty cute. The benefit of writing in my books is that I know directly what to steal without having to waste the time of having to re-read and search an entire book for the quotation I wanted. How else would I know when the butt sex begins in A Sport and A Past Time if it were not for that big-ass star marking the page? Hmm? And what about all the things I need to re-pay-attention to when I reread my books? Also, when I write essay, I practically write the essay in the book.

I do not write in handmade books and chapbooks.

5 comments:

Elisa Gabbert said...

I think you misplaced your hyphen. Shouldn't "big-ass star" be "big ass-star"?

Farrah Field said...

Clearly! Big big ass mistake!

Matt said...

Ah... A Sport and a Pastime... I gave it away once and then bought it again, I loved it so much.

I don't write in books, partly because I'd like to be able to sell them or give them away in the future, but mostly just because I'm a neat-freak. (In addition to being a neat freak.)

Farrah Field said...

Someone I knew saw James Salter give a reading when we was in his seventies and the man brought the house down, slaying all who were in the audience. I hope to be like that some day.

Also I am a neat freak. I do not begin working until my desk is cleared! But am I a messy reader? Or is there something about memory and writing/underlining at work when I read?

Elisa Gabbert said...

I used to try to keep my books pristine but now I dogear and mark 'em up. That way I can actually return to them meaningfully -- pull them off the shelf and re-read the passages I loved the first time, since I rarely re-read full books. Otherwise owning the books feels purely symbolic and not useful.