Stay out of My Margins

From Brain Pickings, a discussion of marginalia from How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren:

“Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it — which comes to the same thing — is by writing in it….Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.”

My reaction:

I do not understand marginalia. Why would I want to take myself out of the reading experience by grabbing a pen and marring the page? If I really want to remember a particular line or phrase, I’ll jot it down elsewhere, like in a writing notebook. And what if I want to reread the book later? I don’t want to see my old notes–I want a fresh reading experience.

Reading a used book with someone else’s marginalia also feels wrong. 99% of the time, the notes aren’t enlightening or cool or funny or witty–they’re just annoying. Get out of my reading experience, former reader!

Team Anti-Marginalia*!

*I will, however, allow Billy Collins’ poem “Marginalia.”

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