Writing in Margins

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This kind of writing in books is so very different from writing inscriptions. It was appalling to me to find that people actually wrote in margins, crossed out printed text of the author’s, and put their own words in their place! Sacrilege! This is the very last kind of writing in books that I learned to do.

These past few years I began to follow suit, but only in books I have bought, not borrowed books, be them library or a friend’s. My reading habits have changed, too. I’m reading more non-fiction books, many that require major thinking. So this is the place to respond…..in the margin. Because the word is printed does not mean I have to agree with it. Sometimes I agree with a passion and just have to take note! Placing my small, printed notes in the margin will attract my attention when I read that book again. Who knows? My opinion may change the second time I read it.

I’m not likely to re-read a novel, except for a few chosen classics that have different messages for me as I’ve grown and understand more.
As for buying a used book with notes in the margin……I love the chance to read what someone else has thought about the author’s words. However, I cannot abide a book with underlining or highlighting!!! That, for me, is strictly for studying and I don’t want to read someone else’s book that is so corrupted. Of course I do it myself now as the photo shows you. My writing group is working its way through the Artist’s Rule by Christine Valters Paintner. I find sometimes I do not agree with her statements and sometimes I am very impressed by them.

These books are kept on my shelf and will not go to the used book store or be donated to the library. They are not intended for re-use for others. It would feel like giving my fingerprints away.

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More on Writing in Books

My hardcover copy of The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee, first printing in 1970 is also inscribed. To Mary Scoville with affectionate good wishes, Frances Haynes, it states. Somehow I feel that Frances had chosen this book especially, over many other books, like a good friend who really knows you would do. Maybe Mary has a Scottish heritage or spent a lovely visit to Scotland. The name Scoville originated in Cornwall, England and has a registered coat of arms. Peoples of the United Kingdom tended to move around from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England so it is easily possible.
The inscription makes the book personal beyond what the author accomplished. A treasure is created by the mere touch of a pen that reveals thoughtfulness. It is an addition that doesn’t come with the buying of a new book. It is also a good writing prompt. Can’t you just create a great story around the inscription inside a book?
James Graves has black and white sketches depicting scenes McPhee wrote about. Remember when publishers did that? It gave an artist a helping hand in getting their work and name into print. The reader benefitted, too. I still remember the pleasure my Nancy Drew books, with pictures, gave me when I was growing up. My Nancy Drew books came from the school library but I wonder how many an Aunt set a reader on fire with an inscribed Nancy Drew book.

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DSCF3335Were you taught to not write or mark your books when you were growing up? Teachers especially stressed that the books loaned to us for class had to be reused the next year and the year after that. Strong words were spoken about the love and care of books.

That love and care of books remains with me today and the memories of those teachers. Yet after decades of keeping my books pristine has changed drastically.

In the 90s I came to appreciate and to buy mostly used books. Often I would open a book to see a personal note written on the flyleaf by someone gifting the book. This brought me into the scene of the giver and receiver. A privilege; almost like being invited to share a confidence.

Pictured here, the John Woolman, American Quaker by Janet Whitney book, a first edition published in May 1942, is inscribed, To Cousin Gertrude, a Direct Descendent of John Woolman, with love and best wishes, from H…. Hutchinson Cook. The dots replace the writing I could not read. The first initial could be an H or a TH. I wonder about the relationship between these two cousins. I imagine the delight she felt with receiving this gift. He sounds happy to have found this book for her to read.
The original price in the book is $3.75. It is listed online for $33.00 to $85.00. For serious book collectors the inscription would lower the value of the book. I think of it as adding value.

More on this subject in the near future.

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Longbourn by Jo Baker…..a review

Longbourn. The very name of the manor house of the Bennet family of Jane Austen fame will perk up the ears of any reader and avid fan of Pride & Prejudice. Yet there are so many offshoots of the Jane Austen novels that are not worthy of a true fan of hers. I found that Longbourn by Jo Baker is an excellent read. The story comes from the voice of Sarah, an orphan servant below stairs. As she comes of age, she tells the story from her viewpoint, longing for love and wishing a man would rescue her from this life.
When James Smith comes on the scene as a footman, it is obvious to Sarah that there is a secret to uncover; something to do with Longbourn. Secrets must be uncovered, she says to no one there.
Ptolemy, a freed man of Africa, who takes on his master’s name of Bingley enters the picture with big, wild, dreams of his own and he’d like Sarah to share them. Sarah longs for a life away from the drudgery and doesn’t mind going after what she desires.
Jo Baker does an exceptional job of writing. She keeps the language of the early 19th century, only revealing what the downstairs servants would have known or heard of what was going on upstairs, and describing what their lives would truly have been like. She also shows a different view of Mr. Bennet and Mr. Collins. Brava to you Ms. Baker.


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The WAM Maya Angelou Tribute


Thomas Park of the Warren Artists’ Market (WAM) declared the First Friday Poetry Night in June to be a tribute to the memory of Maya Angelou; a great idea for a great lady who influenced many people in her lifetime. Several folks read a poem or two of hers. I had just recently taken “Maya Angelou: The Poetry of Living” by Margaret Courtney-Clarke out of the library, so I brought it along. In the book there are over a hundred pages of comments from people whose lives she touched, along with a few comments of her own.
To accent my chosen readings from the book, I added two poems that touched me especially. “Alone” was one and the other “Touched by an Angel” surely she had personal experiences with both.
Sterling added some soft jazz in the background and gave us all a special treat by playing a recording, bringing Maya Angelou’s voice right into the room with us! A delightful experience!
Maya cooked with words of all varieties. She also was a kitchen cook. Reading her cookbooks, The Welcome Table and Great Food, All Day Long, etc. that sit on my cookbook shelves, are filled with recipes for elegant dining, the best recipes for leftovers, and a running conversation. They make me feel as if she is in the kitchen with me. A blessing and a comfort, indeed.

I hope she got her cool drink of water before she died.

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Writing Memoir

I gave up a chance to paint with friends one day last month because I knew I’d been postponing writing the next chapter in a memoir, written strictly for healing purposes. The Past kept burning me to get out of the place I had buried it so many years ago. Like the characters in my Major Fraser book that would not let me sleep at night until I told their story.
So I gave up the beautiful day for painting and stayed inside, on my PC, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote; only taking time out for nibbles and water from the kitchen. These trips to the kitchen help keep my lower back from protesting the hours at the PC. Lizzie came after me, pawing at my elbow at 3 o’clock. She wanted me to join her in our loosely scheduled reading time.
“Not today, Lizzie” I told her. “My muse is hot and my fingers nimble. I’m cranking.” She looked properly disappointed but understood. She’s a witness to me on a writing hailstorm.
It’s a half hour before midnight and I’ve completed the chapter. I’ve wept, dried the tears, and kept writing. I feel great now. A good cleansing made me feel lighter. The memoir is near completion and I’d like to get back to some kind of normal life, for a while anyway. Maybe do some planting if the season has not passed me by . . . cut the grass… clean the house… all waiting for me while my memories were unloading onto the paper.


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Losing Something Precious

While I was unpacking from a recent weekend in Bordentown, I realized my Cosmetic Bag was missing. I don’t use cosmetics but I do place my personal items in there. I frantically searched through all the tote bags and book bags that I tend to take along, bringing home more than I took. Nothing. I tore apart my wee car that has no room to hide anything. Nothing. I looked on the porch, steps, and around the car. Nothing.
I was devastated!
Eating in restaurants and not taking my diuretics over the weekend (because I was too busy running here & there) caused my hands to swell a bit. Since I was leaving early in the morning, I had not exercised at all. That added to the swelling. Which means that I tossed all my rings into the jewelry pouch and tossed it into my Cosmetic Bag. Which means that I lost the most precious item I own….a Mother’s ring that my four sons gave me-on Mothers’ Day- back in 1976. It is the only thing I possessed that all four boys gifted me together.
Sobbing over my loss, sorrow and remorse set on my chest like a lead barbell. Before the end of the day, I dowsed with my crystal which told me that I would never see my precious ring again. Realization set in and I went to my laptop to heal this gaping wound.
This is what came out:

How Empty the Vessel
How empty does the vessel have to be
before it begins to refill or is it refilling
and I don’t notice

My sons are gone; I no longer mourn the loss
yet losing my ring after 38 years of feeling its
preciousness, of being so cautious, of leaving
it home if there was a chance of losing it;
the ring they gave me one Mother’s Day;
a collective gift the youngest boy didn’t even
realize, yet was included anyway

also in the pouch was a bracelet, not expensive
with small matching turquoise triangles on lacy
gold, just recently brought out to wear again
bought in a moment when money was short
I needed a lift to keep me from sinking into a pit
so I bought it; leaving milk & bread & beef &
cigarettes off the list to accommodate
never regretting it

a pair of cloisonné bangles, that I held back
from selling in the shop, unable to part with them
I’ve parted from them now;
a slender, delicate rhinestone tennis bracelet that I
bought, though I don’t play tennis, a bracelet that
lovers & husbands buy to show their love; I felt
pleasure wearing it, does that mean I love myself,
can I still love myself now that the bracelet is gone?

a silver spoon ring given in friendship from a
lover that still carried the love in it & the memories
40 years later; will a replacement feel the same on
my finger? a spiral ring, the symbol of eternity,
purchased in a special moment exuding joy whenever
it was worn; gone…they are all gone

losing things was rare for 40 years, never lost a thing
then it began, first my son Kenny, then my son Guy,
a diamond out of my engagement ring from my beloved
Angelo, his signet ring given with great intensity, one
diamond stud earring, lost in my bed at night-never to be
found, how could that be? then Angelo passed; only things
truly loved from those I truly loved, is this a cleansing;
is this the emptying before the refilling can begin;
this must have meaning to it; these losses hurt

I’m letting go of the past …I am letting go … I promise
I am letting go.

Arlene Sandra Bice © 2014

I can only hope that a man/boy found the Bag and is joyful in giving my treasures to someone who will cherish them as I did. Someone who thrills in their good luck, is what I picture. I prefer that to an image of the Bag being tossed into a trash can where no one would love them.




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