Saturday, March 12, 2005


I was taking a break from Lyra's adventures on her way North --and waiting for a pizza baking in the oven-- when I decided to Google "bookish marginalia." Lo and behold, I found a blog called "Bookish" which is quite good (and indeed, had an entry on marginalia!)... And here I thought I was being oh so clever!

So, check out the original Bookish at

Through Ms. Bookish's site, I also found the following article on marginalia by Ben Macintyre on the Times Online website: "Scribble a message in the margin",,,1068-1398459,00.html. It chronicles the history of marginalia and cites one of the best marginal comments ever: Mark Twain's comment on an unfortunate translation of Tacitus -- "This book's English is the rottenest that was ever puked upon paper." Now, that's a line I would be proud to call my own!

I join Macintyre in exhorting all readers to consider paperbacks "as a notebook to be written in and then passed on." I know that I don't feel like I've read anything unless I write all over the text: underlining, circling, questioning, arguing... in short, creating marvelous marginalia that will be seen by no one else but me, since I don't lend my books! Although I do show them to my students to help them understand what I mean by "active reading".

Enough digression. The pizza is getting burnt!

Starting out

I was just sitting on my bed, looking at the crooked piles of books stacked high around my bedroom, and I wondered: what was that book about? Did I read that one? Mmm... I think I really enjoyed that other one... I guess these are familiar questions for voracious readers -- we tend to forget much of what we read. Impending middle age doesn't help recall either.

And as many of you know, avid readers are (often) wannabe writers.So, to take care of both afflictions --poor memory and frustrated authoring urges-- this blog has been born. Bookish Marginalia is just a random, haphazard collection of musing related to whatever I'm reading, want to read, or remember reading -- and I must warn you, I have very eclectic tastes! From Beowulf to JD Robb's In Death series, Ellora's Cave e-books to The Atlantic magazine... even, on ocassion, the inserts of OTD medications... You'll never know what you'll find on my reading list!

For example, right now my bag contains Mallory's Morte D'Arthur (in the Baines rendition), the first volume of Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass), the front section of today's New York Times, and the March edition of Allure magazine. Pretty typical fare for me. Plus assorted pens, a lipstick, a Furla makeup bag, my brand-new 5GB QuickiDrive (the miracles of technology!), student papers to grade, an umbrella, a seldom-used cell phone, a bottle of lukewarm Dasari water, and of course, a set of house-keys.

I'm currently halfway through The Golden Compass (after having purchased the boxed set of the trilogy during a sale at Borders many months ago). My interest in fantasy is only a few years old, born after the fateful discovery of Ron, Hermione, and Harry... I wasn't interested when I was younger, so it means I've got a lot of catching up to do. The same with the classics, but that's fodder for another post.

I'm dying to know how it is that Lyra will unknowingly but tragically betray herself, as the Jordan College Master foreshadowed. And will she ever have a showdown with her mom, the very maternally-challenged head of the church group abducting and experimenting on children. No separation of church and state in Pullman's alternate 19th Century Britain... although that fine line is also being blurred in 21st Century America as well.

The nice thing about reading for pleasure, especially reading YA genre fare, is that I can just get into the story for the sheer fun of it. Fun is sorely lacking in my graduate courses, where Lacan, Derrida, Bakhtin, and the rest of the gang interfere with the pleasure of the text (Barthes' exhortations notwithstanding). Besides, who can even understand what many of these critics even mean? Which reminds me of my first (and second, third, fourth...) encounter with Homi Babha in a Caribbean literature class... The location of culture is lost under the weight of all that verbiage...

Time to return to Lyra and Pan. I want to find out what happens!

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