Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Marking My Place...

How can I not mention what I found?! I realize you can't see all of the titles in this stack, but that's actually not the point...

Melissa and I spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon wandering through an antique mall. I wasn't intending to buy anything, but I stopped at a book stall and found a shelf of books by Gladys Taber. Each one was marked for sale at only $2, but then I noticed a sign on the wall saying that everything in that stall was 50% off the marked price. $1 each for these out-of-print, sometimes very difficult to find books, and all in very good condition! Since I'm such a Gladys Taber fan, I happily carried the entire stack of books to the counter to buy every one of them!

It would have been a shame to have separated the books by buying only some of them because they had all previously belonged to one woman-- Caroline Caroll of San Gabriel California. Caroline clearly loved Gladys Taber, as evidenced by the clippings, articles, notes, and reviews of Taber's books she tucked inside the covers of these books. There was even a sales receipt for $18.95 from Books on File in New Jersey for their services in locating The Book of Stillmeadow and mailing it to Mrs. Carroll in 1976.

I began to think about what would be found in my books were my collection to appear in a book sale, as is.

I'm the sort of person who, upon finishing a book leaves a variety of things inside. And usually, they remain inside when I've returned the book to the shelf or bookstack.

As I read, I'll pick up whatever convenient thing is at hand to use as a bookmark. Later, when I resume reading, I'll put that placemark elsewhere in the book so that I won't lose it. But more often than not, instead of using that same placemarker again when I stop reading, I'll grab a different convenient item to mark my spot. So, I'll sometimes end up with several bookmarks in one book when I'm finished with it.

A lot of people have beautiful, special bookmarks that are lovingly and carefully used when reading. This bookmark moves methodically from place to place as reading progresses, and when the book is finished, it is removed from the book and set aside in its proper place to await the commencement of a new book. These bookmarks are well-traveled, working their way through a lifetime of reading. This almost inspires awe in me and certainly a sort of admiration for the careful reader.

I have some special bookmarks, too, and I use them, but more often, it's those things that are right at hand that end up marking my place. I'll confess to dog-earing pages from time to time and even of splaying my book to temporarily hold my place. Anne Fadiman says using a book mark is like hitting the "stop" button, while splaying the book on its face is like hitting "pause." Not so open and closed, but an ongoing relationship with the book! :-) I'm glad to have the moral support of the supreme book-loving Anne Fadiman!

I know that what I've just confessed will horrify some people (especially librarians, fastidious readers, and collectors of rare books), and I want to say that I take very good care of my library books. I don't treat them like I treat my own, well-loved, well-marked books.

Furthermore, I'm more careful with my hardcover books than with my paperbacks, and I am extremely careful with my old and rare books. It's those amiable everyday books that get treated like casual, comfortable, good friends.

Anyway, I had a quick look at my bookshelf and I noted the first 20 or so things I saw sticking out of the tops of books-- the items that marked my place when I read those books. And here's what I found:

1. A short grocery store list, on a ripped piece of notebook paper, for salt, olive oil, tomatoes, greens/spinach, lemons, potatoes, garlic, eggs.

2. A blank yellow post-it note.

3. A Smith Family Bookstore (Eugene, OR) bookmark.

4. An ultra-thin, brown moleskin journal (admittedly kind of thick and hard on the book).

5. The description tag, with the price sticker attached to it, that was tied with a string to my new broom.

6. A Borders' sales receipt for Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, purchased 9/10/2007 at 6:50 p.m.

7. A National Gallery of Art "kids" bookmark featuring the Mark Rothko painting "The Party," 1938.

8. A common tan rubber band.

9. A library receipt for the books we checked out that day.

10. A US Track & Field Olympic Trials ticket for July 3, 2008.

11. A National Archives Museum bookmark featuring Barry Faulkner's 1938 painting, "The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.

12. A sales receipt from a local meat market for $30.83 on 7/29/06 at 12:24 p.m.

13. A subscription card for Sunset magazine.

14. A chocolate bar wrapper (Blanxart Dark Chocolate; the candy bar was given to me by Josiah and Aimee on my birthday).

15. A postcard from a friend who visited Jerusalem.

16. A photo of the remote control sailboat Aaron built when he was a teenager, gliding through the water.

17. A Books of Wonder (NYC) bookstore bookmark (thanks Laura and CZ).

18. An unopened envelope, addressed to Mike, containing junk mail.

19. A privacy policy statement sheet from a local walk-in medical clinic.

20. An unused birthday card with a vintage woman on the front saying, "Just treat me like you would the queen."

21. Multiple little scraps of paper, som with writing on them, some with math work, some with doodles, some with lists of books (one had several Neil Postman books listed).

Well, that was sort of like a fun archaeological dig!

Are you a careful reader who methodically moves a nice bookmark from place to place when reading? Or do you find whatever is at hand and use that? Do you leave things in your book or carefully remove them after reading?