Defacing Books: My Romantic Opinion

While I'm plodding my way through my next book, I thought I'd break my hiatus to write a little essay, just to have an excuse to update.

A lot of Bibliophiles are absolutely dead set against defacing books. Dog-eared pages, highlighted passages, notes in the margin (erasable pencil or otherwise) - anything intentionally left by a human hand in regards to a precious book is a criminal act. That's not even to mention the evil abomination that is censoring, sort of like the in the image opposite. That's called blackout poetry, in case you haven't heard of it. It makes a lot of readers grit their teeth, for all it's simple creativity. How dare anyone cross out, say, a page from The Catcher and the Rye. What gives you the right? An act punishable by death, is what that is!
While I would throw a hissy-fit if someone censored a book from a library (particularly a school library) what if the passage was Xeroxed, then blacked out for the purpose of making the blackout poetry? OR, what if it were someone's own personal copy? Would it matter then?

To really love something (or someone) is to have a relationship with it. A relationship is complicated, especially if it's with a person or animal. You wouldn't expect someone to have a very complicated history with something as dead as a packet of paper, glue, and ink. Yet, look back on your favorite childhood picture books. There's a good chance that there are crayon scribbles between the covers, or ripped pages. Maybe you or your baby brother practiced writing your names on the dotted line, thus proclaiming the book as "YOURS." Maybe you left stickers, here and there. Maybe there are old Cheeto stains on the pages. But looking back on those books, your heart kind of swells with sentimentality, doesn't it? "Oh, I remember that!" You already love books in general, but do you love these books less because as a kid you didn't "respect the book"? Would you refuse to share these books with your own children because they aren't perfect anymore? I can't speak for you, but I would absolutely want my children to have them.
So when I say I don't mind defaced books, don't be so shocked. When I started college, my aunt lent me her copy of Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild. She invited anyone who borrowed her book to write somewhere on the title page or flyleaf what they thought about the book. Before that, I'd always felt really strongly about taking the utmost best care of books. But how I loved this idea. I got to see how everyone who read that copy of the book felt about it. It was like an anti-social book club in miniature. That's when my opinion started to change. I started browsing the stacks of the college's library as a means of escape, and finding books with old, sometimes older than anyone I knew, notes fluttering for between the covers. Photographs of students, receipts, tickets, drawings, business cards. These books could have covered any random subject, but they literally held history.

I no longer think it's a criminal act to mark the pages of your favorite books. They're your personal items. You do have that right. In fact, I can no longer read a book without a highlighter for marking a strong paragraph, as long as it's my own copy. If it's a book I have on loan, I copy out the passage into my notebook (which is never far from my side). While I do think there isn't anything wrong with making notations in books as long as they're yours, I would never, ever, ever do the same thing in someone else's borrowed book, unless, that is, they've invited you to like my aunt did.
Besides, I think most people would agree that it's a fun to read someone else's notes and comments while reading a borrowed copy, or going through a used book store and reading the memorandums in gifted books.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thoughts by Feast of Poetry & Drink of Prose. All rights reserved.
Blog design by Labina Kirby.