I have found my calling. From this day forward, I pledge to have an eraser with me when I visit the library so that I can erase, page by page, any pencil marks found within the books I select. I have surprised myself by how grumpy this makes me. I’m a lil’ grumpy.
Generally speaking, if you read books you’ve checked out of the library, there’s a high probability that we’ll find some common ground, even if the books we read are different. (If they’re really, really different we might have to work at it, but I’m willing if you are, WWII-submarine-engine-repair-handbook-reading guy.)
But you cannot mark up that book. People who markup library books do not realize that when you go into a library, acquire a library card, check a book out at the librarian’s desk and get a slip of paper that tells you precisely when you are to bring that book back, that book is not your property. Not permanently. It’s your property for the length of time you have it checked out, but after that, it’s someone else’s, and this is the beauty of the library. You need to bring the book back so other people can use it – other people who might not want to underline that particular passage that you just underlined, starred, and put a smiley face next to. I know! It’s really good! But you don’t have to do that to make it more good than it already is.
The only productive thing I did yesterday was to amble up to the library to get a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird. It’s a great book for writers and I wanted to locate a couple things in it for my class this week. I opened up the only copy they have and wouldn’t you know it: pencil marks on almost every page. Underlined passages, asterisks, and an excruciating “Imp.” absolutely everywhere. The “Imp.” meant “important”, surely, though one could argue the entirety of Bird By Bird is important, seeing as how it’s still in print after several decades, so couldn’t one just consider the entire book underlined and save a little time?
Of course, the underliner might have a good friend named Imp whom she knows would love this snippet and that one and if she doesn’t underline it and put Imp’s name next to it, why, it might be lost forever. What I like to do is have my journal nearby when I read. This is so I can copy down good stuff into its pages. I recommend this because then I have all the things I want to share with my good friend Imp in one place, you see. The difference between my journal and a library book is that I own my journal. Also, no one can check out my journal and read it. That would not be good.
You know what’s really funny? In every single book I’ve ever found that has markings in it, the markings never go all the way through. They always, always stop halfway (or even part-way) through the book. I’m not sure if that means the marker lost interest in marking or lost interest in the book; I’d like to think it’s the former, but I also would like to think I can have ice cream for breakfast every day without negative consequences.
Horace Mann said, “Until you have done something useful for humanity, you should be ashamed to die.” I have my Pink Pearl eraser in my library totebag, now, and I have already used it in Bird By Bird. I’m ready, Horace.