Book Defacers

{Three Chapters into White Teeth}

Tim: This has, admittedly, pretty well nothing to do with the book as a piece of fiction and everything to do with my particular copy of the object. But that shall not halt me from airing a pet peeve: I hate writing in books. I got a used copy of White Teeth, and while I’ve been pretty lucky with used books from Amazon so far, this one has writing all through the margins of what looks to be the first quarter of the book. Safe to say I’ve ignored the scribbles so far.

Debby: Well, looks like we differ yet again. I love margin scribbles. I feel like I’m experiencing the book with someone else! It’s nice to know that another human has read the same lines and been moved by the same passages. My one caveat is when the margin writing is in poor taste. If the writing is not constructive or noting particular themes, then it can be rather obnoxious.

[Note: I just flipped through Tim’s book and the first bit of handwriting I read said “Poor Jehovah’s Witnesses- such easy targets”]

Tim: I just think back to English teachers in high school who made me – yes, made me, as in I got graded on it – write notes in the margins of my books, and how much that contributed to ruining the experience of reading to me. I will clarify that it’s a pet peeve that’s mostly confined to fiction. I’ve been known to underline nonfiction books from time to time. But the “poor taste” caveat begins to get at the root of why it annoys me in the first place. I like having the opportunity to come at a book fresh, form my own opinions uncolored by another commenter. Even if I don’t read the notations, their physical position on a page affects the reading of whatever paragraph they’re near.

Debby: I remember those good ‘ol days! I was the queen of book-notations. I even remember using color codes for various themes or symbols. It made it so easy to write papers, because I could always find the texts I needed for quotes. Now, students can do “word searches” on their kindles or ipads. Back in the day, though, I needed old-school tools.

Tim: And as much as I enjoy actually sitting down and talking about a book like we do here, I HATED those papers, which seemed to be the only things book notes were useful for. I had my tab-strewn copy of The Sound and the Fury, but that didn’t help me enjoy the book.

Debby: Well, to be honest, I wrote a 12-page paper on a rather unique subject in The Sound and the Fury: golf. As in– what the first three pages of the book are about. I didn’t bother taking my amazing note-taking skills further than that.

Tim: Hey, I remember that paper! I read over it while you were working on it. You were talking about Benjy’s observation of people “hitting,” and what he was seeing was others playing golf. There was other stuff, too, but that’s about all I recall at the moment.

Debby: I honestly can’t remember anything else about the book, besides Benjy’s impressions of the sport of golf (or as Mark Twain likes to say, “A good walk spoiled”). So does that prove my margin writing works? Or that I have a very short-term memory?

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