I’m not a big margin-writer. I would like to be since I do tend to get really immersed into whatever I’m reading. Also I tend to have a really bad memory, and I think if I were more interactive with what I was reading I would be able to remember plots better. For instance, for 1Q84 which I just read last year, I totally forget the ending. I remember that I loved 2/3 of the book, that I loved the prose and how it flowed. I also remember how much I disliked the last 1/3 of the book and can’t remember exactly the mechanics of how Aomame got back into the “real” world.
The Millions posted an essay by Dustin Illingworth about writing in the margins of books.
Our culture is less than forbearing in matters of extra-textual scribbling, its very presence analogous to vandalism or, perhaps worse, the intellectual’s vague sedition; our training, therefore, begins early. For a child overly fond of the library, the rituals of card and stamp and due date quickly (and, for some, permanently) accord the book a kind of material sanctity: to write in one would be akin to relieving oneself in the narthex.
That could be why I don’t annotate much, that as a child I was told it was vandalism because I was reading from textbooks and library books. As I have been reading books from the library a lot recently, I’ve seen others scribble in books. Maybe I’ll have to start doing this and say fuck it. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who have read the books I have read are pretty prudish. I wonder what people will think of me.
Alternately, who hasn’t succumbed to the delicious voyeurism of a stranger’s scrawlings? In following along with the previous reader’s checks and brackets, their snarks and synopses, their tangents and revelations, we read a text doubly, illumined by the spectral presence of past engagement. Used bookstores are graveyards of casual epiphanies, awaiting the resurrective animism of fresh consciousness. And whether we are of like mind with the erstwhile owner or we find ourselves adversaries in interpretation, it is a literary haunting the seductive power of which depends on the worth of its abandoned concealments.
Maybe I will start doing this in library books, too!