Wednesday, May 05, 2004

On Bookmarks

I'm talking about the old fashioned kind of bookmarks, you know, the ones that mark your place in a book. I love bookmarkers but not just any kind. I will not use the kind that slip onto the top of the page. They always claim they won't damage the book but that isn't true. Leave one on for any length of time and it leaves a wrinkle on the page. The marker can't be too thick and keep the book from closing flat. And I like my bookmarks to have some kind of meaning either because it was gifted to me from someone dear or one I bought with a caricature of Virginia Woolf on it. I used to have a very large collection of bookmarks, and I suppose I still do. But it is much smaller than it used to be. When I was in grade school I had a teacher that would reward her students with a new bookmark. it was nothing fancy, a piece of colored construction paper with a sticker on the top and the student's name below it. I loved this teacher and I loved my bookmarks from her. I kept them until the paper was faded and the stickers were falling off. I had other markers too, given to me mostly as birthday or Christmas presents as I was growing up--cats, unicorns, teddy bears. I kept them in a glass jar always handy. It is ironic that I had so many markers because I used to be able to read only one book at a time. Used to. After college I stuck to the one book at a time reading method. But then my husband came along. He always had more than one book going at a time. I couldn't understand how he did it. Then one day I complained that I felt like reading but didn't want to read the book I was in the middle of. "So read a different book," he told me. I'm sure I complained and said I couldn't possibly. He likely told me to stop being so silly and just read a different book. So I did. And it was great. And now I can blame my husband for my current inability to read only one book at a time. How does this relate to bookmarks? Easy. In order to keep the number of books I am in the middle of to a realistic number, I allow myself to read as many books as I have bookmarks for. If I don't have a marker, and it has to be a real marker, not a scrap of paper, I have to finish something before I can start anything new. This works, sort of. I currently am in the middle of eight books. They are, in the order in which I began reading them:

  • Writing and Being by Nadine Gordimer. This is a book of essays I began about a year and a half ago. I made it through the first essay but must have been side tracked because I haven't managed to get back to it since. But I will, eventually. It has a "Pooh's Library" marker in it on which Pooh Bear is stacking books on top of a jar of honey.
  • Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing by Stephen King (out of print). I started this book about a year ago. I loved King's book On Writing and found this on my bookshelf. My husband had acquired it. I haven't picked it up in months, but I will again. I stopped reading it because I was tired of King going on and on in the essay "Horror Fiction." My marker is stuck in the middle of this essay on page 112 of the book. This bookmarker has turtles on it.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's a book of short stories I began in February. I love Le Guin but I am finding that if I read more than one or two of these at a time I get annoyed with them. It's the voice or tone or something. The marker in this one has Pooh Bear tumbling around with his head stuck in a pot of honey. It says "after getting so far it seems a pity not to finish it."
  • Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. This is a great book but slow going. I find I have to be in a focused frame of mind when reading it or it seems like they are writing in another language. This one has a pretty embroidered marker that is patterned after a Turkish rug.
  • Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers: Best of Blogs edited by Alan Graham and Bonnie Burton. This is a book of blog posts the editors deemed "literature." I don't know about that, but they are enjoyable. Still, I only find myself reading it when I have a short attention span and don't want to think. This has a Virginia Woolf bookmark in it.
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. I'm reading this for book group and it is fabulous. However the stories are pretty intense so I'm reading them slowly both to savor and so as not to be overwhelmed. The marker in this book is Christopher Robin dragging Pooh Bear up the stairs. It says "You're just a silly old bear."
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This is good. I started it a few days ago because I wanted to read some fiction other than short stories. This bookmarker has the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings on it.
  • And finally, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume One by Virginia Woolf. Woolf is one of my favorite authors. I've read her juvenile diaries but haven't gotten to her adult ones yet. So here I go. It's good short attention span nonfiction reading. This has my last allowable bookmark in it, a promotional one for a new translation of The Little Prince.
I have more bookmarks but am keeping them away from my books. With the ones in current operation things already seem to be out of hand. I'm in the middle of eight books and can't seem to finish any of them. But the thought of going back to reading one book at a time is unthinkable. And last night I came close to raiding my bookmark stash so I could start reading Pornography of Meat by Carol J. Adams. I. Must. Resist.