Saturday, August 08, 2009

Bookself #1-- the Wrap-Up

Last week I posted a photo of one of the many bookshelves in residence here and asked for opinions. I got quite a few, which was a pleasant surprise because I'd chosen a rather bland and boring shelf to show everyone.

To everyone who felt uncomfortable making assumptions about a person based on one lone bookshelf-- I feel your pain. One of the rules I try to abide by is

Never assume. When you assume, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me".

On the other hand, I was soliciting assumptions, so I'm glad so many of you gave me yours. No one was made out to be an ass. In fact, I think more of you read mysteries than want to admit it!

The first four books on the left on that particular shelf are the only college textbooks I have left. I did study literature in college, and my favorite literary periods still are the Romantic and the Victorian.

Just to give you a taste of my college years, I'm going to pull out Russell Noyes' English Romantic Poetry and Prose and let you take a peek. The outside cover is in good shape, and inside you'll find a line-up of the greats: Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Blake, Scott, Lamb, Byron.... Just typing those names brings back a lot of memories of wonderful language and unforgettable word pictures.

What I'm about to show you next is not for the faint of heart. If you're in the slightest bit squeamish, please-- I beg of you-- don't look at the next photo! You see...I once was a...dare I say it? defiler. I hang my head in shame!

Here you see the pages turned to one of my favorite poems, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. See the asterisks, the lines, the arrows, the notes scribbled on the page? I've even kept handwritten notes from an English class. To anyone who hates to see books treated like this, I know it has to be a painful sight.

My personal opinion on the subject? I no longer do it, but if you've paid for the book and the book is yours-- you can do what you like to it. I may be reformed, but I'm not reformed to the point of being a fanatic!

Most of you expressed an interest in these two books, and here they are:

The Art of the Personal Essay is an excellent resource, and it's one of my favorites because the personal essay is one of the few bits of writing that I can do reasonably well when I put my mind to it.

Depraved and Insulting English is one of my favorite types of books on language. I've spent a lot of my working life in the customer service field, and there are those rare and story-fied days when you're the lucky recipient of the customer straight from hell. This person woke up in a rampage and is laying waste to as many people as inhumanly possible. Unfortunately in most cases, you just can't treat that person in the same Godzilla-like manner. What I always liked to do was smile my suck-up smile (with the poker face eyes) and insult the person in such a way that it took him at least a week to figure out just exactly what I said-- if he ever figured it out at all. Books like Depraved and Insulting English are perfect resources for the subtle sting of the rapier insult. Even if you don't like to insult people (normally I don't!), it's a fun book to read.

But, hands down, my favorite book on the shelf is the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Its subtitle is "A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence". In other words, if you read it, you are immediately tossed headlong into the East End of London in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I've read a lot of novels written during that time frame, and this book is a jewel. It's also a gem because I've been able to see slang being handed down through the centuries.

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite expressions to use when referring to certain female teachers who annoyed me was "that old bat!" After reading this book, I've never ever called another woman that unless it was an extreme circumstance. Why? Just read the definition of "bat":

"A low whore: so called from moving out like bats in the dusk of the evening."

In other words, if you call a woman a "bat", you're not only referring to her as a whore, you're also implying that she's either so old, so ugly, or so diseased that the only way she can drum up customers is by waiting until dark so that the men can't get a good look at her. Ouch!

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to the first of my "bookselves." If you have any questions about these books, ask away. Next week, I'll show you another bookself. Will it be fiction? History? Biography? Art? Who knows!

Be ready with more of your fine assumptions, my friends!


  1. This was fun. I really like quite a few books on your shelves. If you ever have a mind to join the virtual poetry circle discussions on Saturday at my blog, feel free. You are welcome to join us.

  2. What great books and a great post!

  3. I am with you...if you paid for the book, it is yours to do with as you please. Once upon a time I wrote in my books but haven't do so for a good decade or so. But I think it is a beautiful picture. It shows how you interacted with the book and can be an insight into how your reading of the same book can change over time.

  4. Actually, I LOVE when people write notes in their books and make it their own. I learn so much more by reading their insights. I wish the picture was a close up so I could actually read what you wrote :)

    Great post!

  5. Cathy, I have to say that I REALLY love your blog.

    Some are nice to look at. Some say funny things. Some are informative.

    Yours is all three.

    Please don't ever stop blogging!

  6. What a great post!

    Today I would never dream of writing anything in a volume of poetry, but when you are a student, it is certainly the best place to have your notes!

  7. Serena--You don't sit and watch my LT widget go through a few cycles, do you? (I do once in a while!) I'll keep the poetry discussions in mind. Thanks!


    Psmith--Now that you mention it, you're right. That definitely shows that I've interacted with that book! :)

    Molly-- I've always liked checking out marginalia, too. If you click on that photo, you'll see it full size, and you'd probably be able to read my scribbles. :)

    Kim-- Bless your little cotton socks, what a wonderful thing to say! I intend to blog just as long as I have something to say and like the way I'm saying it. You, on the other hand, haven't been blogging much? I miss it!

    Dorte-- I seem to remember doing some sort of presentation on Coleridge, so that's why all the notes everywhere. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoyed writing it!

  8. I love the whole concept of this post. And boy do you know how to make a girl jealous of the 1811 Dictionary! Knowing the history of "that old bat" has just made that particular phrase that much more appealing to me. So perhaps it's a good thing you own the dictionary and I don't!

  9. Super post!! I wrote all over my textbooks. I've never written much in another books, but writing in my school books was a great way to absorb the material.

  10. Kristen--Gives extra spice to the slang when you know what it means and others don't, doesn't it? :) was as if I were writing it on my brain at the same time.


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!