Monday, June 09, 2008

Writing in books

I was well into my thirties before I could sufficiently suppress my upbringing, and dare to write in a book. Even now, it's almost always for practical reasons. Notes in field guides: how to distinguish similar birds, where wildflowers grow. Corrections to genealogies.

Maybe it's because it's not my habit. Maybe it has to do with being forbidden, or that it's hidden away beneath the covers. But I get a secret thrill every time I find someone else's handwriting in a book. All kinds of handwriting.

Straightforward: AUTOGRAPHS
Many Things Have Happened Since He Died and Here Are the Highlights
This wasn't an early printing. Someone -- I picture a tightfisted typesetter grumbling about the price of ink -- chopped the legs out from under the title of this lovely book.

What a fun surprise though, to find an autographed library book. I wonder about 14-year-ago Elizabeth Dewberry (Vaughn at that time), and what brought her to sign it.

Did I miss her reading at Springville Road, my old library? She grew up in Birmingham. Was she bored enough on a trip home to sneak between the stacks and practice guerilla signings? Maybe she just donated the copy.

And why does it say "teen readers"? It wasn't in the Young Adult section, and it certainly didn't strike me as a teen book.

Perfectly acceptable: GIFT DEDICATIONS
Holiday Tales
I'm not Jewish, but I enjoy reading about religions, so I was bound to gravitate towards this book.

But when I opened it up and found it already dedicated, to me, it sealed the deal.

I'm filled with questions about this other Karen. How did her book travel from South Africa to a thrift store in Boaz? She would have been almost exactly five years younger than me -- surely she's not dead. (So young!)

But why, after bringing it all that way, would she give up this book? Did she lose her religion? After moving to Alabama, was she overrun by Southern Baptists? Did she tire of musty old pages from her young adulthood? Or did she just lose it in a move?

The Day I Became an Autodidact
I read updates on this author all the time. She's Kendall Hailey, who's married to Danny Miller, the blogger behind Jew Eat Yet. Talk about your fated relationships... before they ever met, her book fell on his head! I bought my copy from Ebay, since it's out of print now.

The previous owner liked jotting comments in the margins.

Rather smarty-pants comments, most of the time.

But he ran out of steam after my favorite one:

I'm assuming it was at this point that the scribbler decided he was funny enough to write his own book. Wonder what it's called?


bill/prairie point said...

I'm like you, I grew up with some kind of fear of writing in books. When I went off to college my classmates would underline and highlight, and fold down pages and all kinds of things that made me want to scream.

robin andrea said...

When I was little I took all the books in my parent's bookcase and wrote "This book belongs to Robin" in every one of them. I even wrote that in my mother's yearbook. I got out of the habit soon after that, and really never picked it up again!

Floridacracker said...

I still can't do it.

Except for the Southern Living Annual Recipe books. I used to write recipe names and page numbers on the inside cover so I could quickly find good ones that I had tested.

Now Southern Living has formally set the books up that way so they've taken all the illicit fun out of that.

NCmountainwoman said...

I wonder if there is as much writing in books now that we have "post-it notes?"

I treasure the hand-written notes my mother left in her favorite cookbook.

Anonymous said...

Was reading "Clicked" at, and found this:

Found in Books

Then, came over to read you tonight...

I love the way the Internet works sometimes!

Thim :)

Rurality said...

Bill, somehow the horror of page-folding never took root in me... I do it all the time and it drives my husband insane. :)

Robin, oh no! Hope you didn't get in too much trouble. I have a grin on my face, imagining a tiny Robin doing that.

FC, for some reason I still have a hard time writing in cookbooks. I don't know why that's different!

NCMW, good point! I hadn't thought of that.

Thim, great article. I haven't been that lucky about finding treasures in books... with my luck, I'd be the one finding the bacon!

euthymic said...

when we were young my sister used to always write at the first blank page of the book, "If this book should ever roam, be a pal and send it home" then leave her address and phone no. ever got one of those?

Maktaaq said...

This is a fun post, Rurality. I am also not a book-scribbler. I think I only recently started (in January) highlighting photocopies from my professional courses.

I really enjoyed Thimbelle's article too. With my luck, I would find a great rare book I've been searching for for years and it would be the one with the used Q-tip.

lisa said...

Interesting post! I was quite a brat as a kid, and wrote in books all the time. Later I quit, except for cookbooks...I love to write the date I tried a recipe, note any modifiactions, and how it turned out. That article was amazing-found money in books? Teeth? Bacon?!Wild!

Annie in Austin said...

Most of the books I read as a kid came from public libraries, and writing in a book we didn't own would have felt criminal. I still don't write in many, but make an exception for "Passalong Plants" which is covered in names and notes.

You do make it seem fun to find a book with scribbled words, Rurality!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Tamar Orvell said...

Thanks for inviting me (via email) to translate the Hebrew (some writing is Aramaic, which looks, sounds, and sometimes means the same thing!) for the Bat Mitzva present of your namesake in South Africa!

Top right: the acronym for "with heaven's help" [in Aramaic]

Top center: Mazal tov (congratulations)

Row 3, center: Hebrew blessing that is translated into English on the next line ("may you go, etc.")

Bottom right: Hebrew calendar
date (month, year)