Doesn’t it feel like some books are too sacred to write upon? I go back and forth, and have various procedures. I’m embarrassed to say that for my favorite books (some of the ones I use for class) I have two copies on the shelf–one desk copy in which I’ve written, and one pristine. I always want the visually uncluttered reading experience, when possible…or at least I fantasize that somehow I can go back to the time of that first reading, and experience it again.
Now it strikes me that it’s like a specific cone of melon gelato I had in Italy last month. The melon gelato was so good, I immediately wanted to experience that cone again. I sit at my desk in Ohio and regret not going back for another, but it would not have been the same.
(I think the gelato was here: http://www.gelateriamillevoglie.it/ilgelato.html)
Cover of the first edition
I’m re-reading and pondering Michael Ondaatje’s book, In The Skin of A Lion. I love this book. For me, this is a book to read again and again, to study and learn from. This novel is an open apprenticeship. Any good novel might be like that: think about which novel yours might be. This one speaks to me.
Tonight, this passage from p. 157 seems like one definition of community:
“Alice had once described a play to him in which several actresses shared the role of heroine. After half an hour the powerful matriarch removed her large coat from which animal pelts dangled and she passed it, along with her strength, to one of the minor characters. In this way even a silent daughter could put on the cloak and be able to break through her chrysalis into language. Each person had their moment when they assumed the skins of wild animals, when they took responsibility for the story.”
I just read an interesting article in the NY Times about marginalia. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “reading as a writer” and what that means, how interactive and not passive it can/should be… yet I have trouble writing in books, myself. So I take a lot of notes, recopy passages, and do my work that way. Maybe I need to rethink this, and break the water of the pristine book.