Thursday, December 6, 2018

Writing in books

There are greater sins against books than writing in them, but not many. And the few that there are, like banning, or burning, are so rare in my library life as to be barely noticed. And, when it comes down to it, if someone has gone through and written in a book I just assume they go ahead and burn that book when they're finished with it anyway. In fact, as far as I'm concerned everyone can go ahead and ridiculously write in any book they want to their hearts content, all with one unbreakable and absolute proviso: They must burn that book the moment they're finished with it and before any normal reader comes in even the most incidental contact with it.

Of course this presents special problems with library books, but burning and paying for would still be the preferred solution.

All the writing and underlining I've ever seen suggests the perpetrator would like to be seen as a student and scholar of the work. I have never seen a written-in book of any erudition, insight, or commitment. Pointless and random sentences are underlined. Wildly obvious comments are scrawled self-consciously in the margin. Simple words are ostentatiously defined with a couple of vague, distracting synonyms. It there are observations they will miss the point entirely. Working so much with books I have seen a lot of writing in them,and I can attest that after a dozen or so pages it all starts to fade away. The writer realizes they are not a scholar at all. They realize they have never read a book before and don't know how to do it, they have nothing to add, and that their thrill at being a student of knowledge burns away when they find they understand nothing and are bored out of their minds.

The last 150 pages of written-in books are invariably pristine.

But by then it's too late.

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