Wednesday, March 25, 2009

marginalia, etc.

I took this book---The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, which I can't issue a recommendation or non-recommendation for, since I never got around to reading it---out of the library mostly because when I flipped it open to see if it looked readable or not, I noticed someone had highlighted words in the prologue. (And seemingly only in the prologue, since I flipped through the book and there weren't any more blue blobs jumping out at me.)

My mom impressed on me from a very early age that one does not write in books, especially library books, and I've never been much of a book-annotator. I had a professor my freshman year of college who forced us to make notes and underline things in the anthology of short stories we had for class. It always felt really artificial to me to do this, like I was only making notes because I knew he'd walk around at the beginning of class to make sure everyone had made notes, not because I actually felt I had anything to say about the story that needed to be right there in the margin. Also, it meant I couldn't sell the short story anthology back to the bookstore at the end of semester. I still have it on my shelf, in fact.

So while I don't write in books, myself, there's always something intriguing (to me) about getting a book from the library or a used bookstore that someone has written in. When I was about eleven-ish, I remember getting so excited about a copy of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories that had someone's name and address, along with the date they'd presumably acquired the book in the 1930s, written in the front that I absolutely had to own it.

So while highlighting words isn't quite as interesting, I couldn't resist bringing this book home for a closer look. Some of the highlighted words are: cloisters, vocation, surreptitiously, wimple (the prologue is about nuns), and entrails. For some reason the whole process of highlighting polysyllabic words made me think of SATs, but maybe someone not of high school age just wanted to note words they thought they should look up. This is probably a good habit to get into (the looking up, not the highlighting), really, since I have a terrible habit of just assuming I can get the meaning of words from their context and then using them incorrectly for years.

I totally know what "surreptitiously" means, though. Even if spell check has had to fix it for me both times I tried to type it here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

spring! (technically.)

first crocuses!
Originally uploaded by slothmuffin

This photo was taken a couple days ago, when it actually was springy---today, on the actual first day of spring, the crocuses stayed shut all day because it was mostly cloudy, not to mention damp and chilly.

I haven't done anything particularly springy today. Mostly I was just reading The Various Haunts of Men, which, while engrossing, is written in a multiple-POV style that's quite odd for a mystery novel (or maybe I'm just used to fluffier mysteries which usually have spunky female protagonists and are often told in first-person POV?), and I guessed who the killer was about halfway through, which was both fun (because it's always nice to figure things out and feel smart) and sort of annoying (because I like to be surprised!). (ETA: I finished this book later, and its ending actually made me feel like reading it had been a waste of time. So I hasten to make it clear that I'm not recommending it!)

I also went for a walk, and I think I was seriously expecting to be presented with all kinds of green and wondrous signs of spring, or something. Not so much. But there are some crocuses, and snowdrops, and the daffodils are on their way to blooming eventually. I'm very excited about all of this, this year. I think it's because I've been taking more pictures, so winter's lack of colours has made me sad.

I've never tried the whole "standing an egg on its pointy end" thing that's supposed to work on the vernal equinox. Isn't it only supposed to work at very exact times of said day, too? I could google this, but somehow that feels like cheating.