Friday, July 1, 2016

On Using Books

This is another post on a review of a book I have not yet read, but will most certainly read in the near future. It's called An Incomplete Eloquence. The book reviewed is The Reader in the Book. A Study of Spaces and Traces, and it is by Stephen Orgel. It takes its motto, “Using a book, not reading it, makes us wise”, from a 2005 Chicago exhibition. The idea is that "mere reading is not enough; rather, we must mark our texts lest we forget the wisdom so recently acquired. Inscription is a critical part of 'use'."

Perhaps, though not necessarily. To take notes from books does not necessarily mean marking up the book.
“At what point did marginalia […] become a way of defacing [the book] rather than of increasing its value?” asks Orgel early on. This proves to be a fundamental question, as the tensions he unearths between these two material understandings of books (and book use) are no small part of the lasting fascination of The Reader in the Book.
Perhaps marginalia were became less important when other writing materials became abundant and thinking about the book took more space than what the margins of a book provide. It certainly is also related to ownership of the book. Making marks in margins of books that don't belong to you is not rude, but also ultimately useless. "Using" a book can mean many things apart from inscription.[1]

That being said, I am looking very much forward to reading it.[2]

More later!

1. There is a reference to another review and the claim that “marginalia is a mournful expression of the loss of a body.” It's also worth a read, even though I find it difficult to make sense of the phrase (or the sentiment behind it).

2. But it won't be soon. I'll wait until I can find it in a library, as the Kindle edition is 35.99 and the hard cover 43.16 (!).

1 comment:

MK said...

Must have overlooked your post (or forgotten). Can you provide the link?