Friday, February 21, 2014


I went to a talk yesterday in the rare books library at my uni, which was mostly about 19th Century publishers, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. At some point, however, the conversation diverted to marginalia (notes written in the margins, in case anyone's wondering) and its disappearance. I wasn't aware of this, but apparently historians learn a lot about responses to books from the marginalia. Other than professional reviews, there wasn't an outlet for reader's responses, so many of them wrote down their thoughts in the book itself.

Now I know this is a divided issue, but my books are pristine. I have my name and year in the front, but other than that, nothing. I don't even dog ear my books anymore. If I have thoughts about a book, most of the time, they stay that way, unless I write a review on Goodreads or here. To me, a book is precious as an object.

However, this presents its own problems. Historians are having a really hard time figuring out how to preserve and document information on the internet. We don't know in five hundred years if we'll still have access to the internet, and so it seems like there should be a back-up plan. There are universities that put all of their digital records onto microfilm, but that sounds inconvenient and time consuming. Do we print out everything? Where do we store it? How do you even begin recording something so large? At the moment, there's no surefire solution.

So why don't we write more in our books? They're cheaper and more available than they've ever been. They're equally disposable, too.  Doug Dorst and J. J. Abrams played around with marginalia in S. and it's simply fascinating to read. Couldn't marginalia be part of the reading experience, too?

Me? I personally don't know. After that conversation, I'm thinking about recording more of my thoughts in my books. I would like to have a record of how I felt at this exact point at this particular time. But I'd also like to come to a book with clean, legible pages. I like to reread a book knowing that I'm coming to it with fresh eyes, especially if I've forgotten the plot.

Anyway, I'm curious. Thoughts? Comments? I'd love to know your opinions on marginalia and how it affects the reading experience.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Note to self:

When candy corn stops tasting good, it probably means you should stop eating it.

(I didn't and now I am full of queasy feelings and regret)

In other news, plodding along with TA and getting things in order. I submitted a part of it to my creative writing workshop three weeks ago, and got really helpful comments, so that's good. We've had a couple of snow days, so I haven't felt particularly motivated to do anything except binge on reruns of Lost, but now I'm getting back on track with things.

Also, I hope you have a happy Valentine's Day, even in this terrible and snowy weather.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Keeping myself accountable

I'm getting on with my novel (TA) pretty slowly, and I thought I'd check in. To tell you the truth, it could go faster. I could be writing more. I've deliberately organised my schedule this semester so that I have swathes of time to go to the gym, work on my art, and of course, writing. Yet somehow I'm only getting one of the three done.

Yeah, I didn't think it was going to be the gym, either. I think it's mostly because I've signed up for Tough Mudder in August and I am screwed unless I start training now. One of the things I have to particularly work on is my upper body strength, which is abysmal. At Tough Mudder, I'm expected to climb and haul myself over ten foot walls, and right now, I'm not exactly prepared for that. My roommate has lent me five pound weights to start off with. Five pounds is the equivalent of a newborn, and a small one at that. Here's the thing: five pounds is heavy. I am struggling to lift up small newborn babies, never mind myself. But I'll get there in the end.

With writing, I don't really have the same concrete goal. There are no consequences for me if I never finish TA, apart from a lack of novel. It's harder to keep myself accountable. I know that if I don't write 1,000 words a day, it will still be okay. Nothing will be there in the distant future to punish me if I fail. It's easy to think: I'm tired, I don't need to write. It's harder to think: I need to write because I've got to get this novel out of me and the only way to do that is to put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard).

So I guess my goal for today is to keep trucking. Even if I don't make it to 1,000 words today, I still have words down. The story's still in my head. I can work with what I've got, and after all, anything's better than a blank page. Onwards and upwards!