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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Underlined

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for books. My office shelves are quite packed and no room is found on any shelf in the house. While I like books neat and orderly on the shelf (and I am not as ordered as some--often visitors are astounded that my books are cataloged, like in the library. I could be like one individual who arranges his books by size and color . . . ), I am finding there is a particular beauty in stacking them where there is no room. I am moving from “library” to “thrift shop” in terms of style. 

Isn't the (above) picture beautiful? No, they are not mine. :-(

Given my love for the bound word, believe me when I say I find it extremely difficult to pass by any stack of books for sale, particularly used books. Being that I am in an academic setting, boxes of books often appear in various places ranging from $1.00 or more a piece down to twenty--five cents or “Free.” I know these “free” books--books that never sell and need to be cleared out. True treasures to be found, even in free books (“one man’s trash” and all that).

Browsing a shelf recently I picked up a title I found intriguing. Never heard of the author. Without opening I correctly identified the to be of the 1980’s. Self-help-ish. The title matters not, nor does the author--the contents of the book make these details irrelevant when it comes to describing them.

Every line of every page, save the last ⅓ of the book, was underlined. Every line underlined.

Blue ball-point pen. Sentence after sentence. Phrase upon phrase. Paragraphs in their entirety. Page after page after page. Underlined.

Except for the last ⅓.

Suddenly, the subject matter of the book mattered nothing. I was intrigued by what must have been going through the readers’ mind. I can’t help but continue to wonder:

Why underline so much? Why underline at all?

Was the subject that interesting?

What was the most important?

What did the former owner get out of it?

Does he (or she) remember any of what was read?

Was underlining a tool to scan the page--was it read at all?

Why does the last of the book remain untouched? Were they finished at such-and-such a chapter? Did they lose interest? Die?

Should I buy the book and finish it?

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