In the end, I just couldn’t do it. Essayist Ander Monson asks, requests, even cajoles the reader of his Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries to write in his book, to add the reader’s perspective to the writer’s notes.
But I just could not bring myself to write inside a book that I had borrowed from the library. It was inter-library loan, for goodness sake, shipped from another library an hour’s drive away just to allow me to read it. Writing in the borrowed book seemed to fly in the face of some unwritten contract. Although, if you think about it, a library book has a larger audience. Still. I don’t own the book. All I could think about was some imaginary librarian frowning at my marks inside a borrowed book.
Instead, I did the next best thing: I wrote some pieces on sticky notes and stuck them into various pages of Monson’s book. It’s the same, adding removable notes. But maybe this will start a trend. I even left my Twitter handle on the notes. Maybe my note to a future reader will boomerang right around, and fly back to me with a response, and we will have Ander Monson to thank.
Speaking of Monson and his book, I really loved this collection of essays about reading and books, and the interactions between reader and writer. Monson hooks his ideas around artifacts that has he has found in books and libraries, from notes on an old catalogue filing card to scribbles on the margins to scraps of paper once a bookmark, filled with writing. From there, Monson takes off in free-ranging essay style, examining what reading means to him, and to us.
Interestingly, each piece in this collection was originally left in the books the essays were about. That’s the “letter to a future lover” that the title refers to. Can you imagine opening up a book and finding a folded essay by Monson waiting for you? Can you imagine how many of those essays will never get read, ever? Many of the books that he examines are dusty and unread, sitting on the shelves of university libraries for decades. There’s something intriguing about that whole notion, right?
This is my note to you, reader, about leaving notes for an unknown reader, inspired by a writer who writes about writing notes to other readers. What will you write?
Peace (going round and round),
Lovely post and lovely idea, Kevin. I have that book although I’ve only skimmed it. I would love to encourage this kind of annotation in our school library. Might even give it a go next term by supplying sticky notes in books. We have discovered some ancient annotations in some of our dusty tomes and it’s like discovering treasure.