Notes on Marginalia: Sam Anderson's Year of Reading

I mentioned some favorites in the Millions' Year in Reading last week, just in time to miss the entry on Thursday from one of my favorite critics, New York's Sam Anderson, who, happily, turns the genre inside out with a glimpse into what his year of reading was actually like, with scans of some of his livelier marginal notes, written on the books as he was reading them. As someone who generally doesn't do more than underline in books or dog-ear pages I want to go back to later, seeing engaged notes like these makes me feel a little inferior as a reader. When I taught, I would push students to get over that hump of feeling like they couldn't write on their books, so I'm not sure why I don't do it much myself--am I afraid of being embarrassed later by my initial reactions? Or just feel that they aren't worthy of the text they'd share a page with? (Or maybe it's just aesthetic: Anderson's gracefully legible mix of small caps and casual cursive (lovely "f"s!) reminds me that one reason I don't write in books is that my cramped scrawl is pleasurable neither to write nor read.) But now I think it would be a great exercise to consciously scrawl all over the next book I read and see if changes my reading experience, or makes that initial experience easier to recall.

Hard to cut and paste them here--it's best to see them in the flesh--but some of my favorites of his: on DeLillo's Point Omega ("right on the border of stoner existentialism"), on David Shields's Reality Hunger ("I'm going to punch this bk in the face if it makes this point again"), on Franzen's Freedom ("OMG! Rolling eyes so hard!! someone needs to protect F's art fr his editorializing"), and, of course, Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken ("! AAAH!"--that's meant in a good way).

Appropriately, one of the most charming aspects of the post is a comment--which I'll assume isn't spurious--from his wife, "Sarah," who not only is "often stuck reading his [marked up] review copy," but with him following her reading of his copy over her shoulder:

The absolute worst repurcussion of reading a text marked by a person you live with is something I’m sure only the partners of critics must endure: being interrogated about what I think about the marginalia itself:
Me: lying in bed, reading
Sam: hey. Did you laugh where I wrote funny right there? (looking over my shoulder)
Me: bugger off, I’m reading.
Sam: what about that paragraph I marked as extra important? Super important, right?
Me: mmmm.
Ad nauseum.


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Comments (1)

Nice calls, both of you--can't believe we forgot The Imperfectionists, one of our faves of the year...

Posted by: jinlala | Tuesday August 23, 2011 at 7:11 PM

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