Reading this Guardian blog post on marginalia, I was wondering how many people out there write in their books. I don't, as a rule. I'm careful about my books: no dog-earing, no reading in the bath unless the book is secondhand and already decrepit or very occasionally (shhhh) a library book. (Librarians, this is not as callous as it seems. I have not dropped a book into the bath since I was nine years old. And yes, I am still haunted by it. It was a Scholastic book club order, forever after marred by its wrinkly pages.)
I do see the utility of marking a book for study, and I've used Post-Its for this purpose. But in a novel? I have never once encountered anything interesting written inside a novel apart from an inscription. More often than not, the things I've found underlined have seemed completely random. I find it baffling at best and vandalism at worst. Then again, perhaps I simply haven't been fortunate enough to inherit a marked-up novel from a top scholar.
I have been known to underline poetry, mostly Blake, and only in a rather unspecial Wordsworth classics edition. And only then with an unsharpened pencil, the barest of fair lines. And for an upcoming short-story collection I'm reviewing, I haven't at all minded writing notes in the bound galleys. Especially since I know there's a lovely fresh hardcover on its way. Mmmm.
The fact is that I like to come to a page unmolested, without something giving an undue weight to a particular phrase. Though it might be interesting to re-read something and try and discover if you still value whatever it was you thought important enough to highlight the first time around...
What do you think?