Thursday, August 8, 2013

Underlining in Library Books

I am reading David Lodge, Deaf Sentence (New York: Viking 2008). It's clever book, but it's not just clever but also insightful and, what is rare, at the same time entertaining. In it, the narrator comes across a library book that has been marked with a turquoise highlighter pen, "not just in the margins but with parallel strokes drawn right through the the lines of text from left to right." The narrator considers this as vandalism and finds it hard to believe how anyone "educated enough to have access to a university library should do this to a book." To him "the treatment of books is a test of civilized behaviour." He admits "to making light pencil marks in the margins of a library book occasionally, but [he] erase[s] them scrupulously as [he] goes through the pages writing up [his] notes." Heavy underlining enrages him. The previous borrower must have been "under the delusion that this procedure will somehow engrave the words in his or her cerebral cortex" (105f.). The offense is even more serious if ballpoint pen or a felt-tip highlighter is used.[1]

I could not agree more and would not even do this to my own books. Ballpoint pens are not tools for marking books, and felt-tip highlighters should be prohibited altogether. Yet, students seem not to be able to do without them. In fact, they seem to think that their understanding of texts is enhanced by using different colors to indicate different categories. No serious reader will do this.[2]

Needless to say, I don't own highlighters.

No further comment!



1. Needless to say, this episode has great significance in the novel.
2. See also here, here, and especially here.

1 comment:

LĂ­via said...

Hi, I agree but I think there is some sort of communication between different readers through the marks and underlinings in a book. It'a bit like reading a web page knowing what the people thought of that through the comments section. It's really beautiful I think to get a book and know that it's used and marked down. Although I contempt the heavy marks and the use of any king of ink. The pencil marks have no problem at all!