I decided to junk the whole honors program and be an ordinary English major. I went to look up the requirements of an ordinary English major at my college.
There were a lot of requirements, and I didn’t have half of them. One of the requirements was a course in the eighteenth century. I hated the very idea of the eighteenth century, with all those smug men writing tight little couplets and being so dead keen on reason.—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
I used to think that writing in books was sacrilege.
Then, freshman year of college, I was reading a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson I had borrowed from my cousin when I came across a highlighted paragraph. “Why would you do that?” I asked her, scandalized.
“Because I might not read that book again, and this way I can remember the parts I liked,” she answered. I hadn’t thought of it like that, as a way to preserve your love of a book, rather than a sign of careless treatment of it. I changed my mind in about .02 seconds and I’ve been marking up my books ever since. (Never the library’s or any I borrow; I’m not an animal.)
It’s nice to grab a book from the shelf sometimes and page through, reading passages I’ve marked. It’s how I source a lot of the quotes for this blog. And even if I start by reading a few highlighted lines, I may get pulled in and wind up reading an entire page or two—or just decide to start over and read the whole book.
So, funnily enough, my intent in underlining and calling out passages to keep love of books and stories alive without having to read them again, often results in my reading them again.
I’ve played myself, but also not.
Happy underlining, folks.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar