Monday, September 06, 2010
There's Nothing Common About Commonplace Books
It's been a while since you've seen my desk, but that's not the reason why I'm showing it to you. (And I didn't even tidy up for y'all!)
Looking at that mess, you'd probably think that I like pairs of big monitors (yes), pens (yes), and all sorts of books in which to write (yes). (Like all the other photos in this post, you can click on it to view it full size.)
A couple of weeks ago, I read a post about commonplace books written by Amanda on her blog, Desert Book Chick. Susan Wise Bauer describes a commonplace book as "a handmade Bartlett's Familiar Quotations." With the addition of personal reflections, scraps of writing and poetry, and other pieces of information, commonplace books become a sort of artificial memory.
You see the very first one here to the right. From that red, white and blue dove on the cover, you probably won't be surprised when I tell you that I started writing in this in 1973.
From the very beginning, I included personal reflections amongst all the quotations-- anything from bad poetry to lists to a description of the sky on a particularly memorable day.
I can see that a quote I believed described me to a T in 1977 still does in 2010, but that the tone of the words has changed from wistfulness to contentment. More than anything else, turning the pages of my commonplace books is reliving the chapters of my own history.
Even a bookmark in a commonplace book can bring back waves of memory. I've always used the last bit of lace trim from my prom dress as a commonplace bookmark-- even though there's nothing common about that lace or all the words on all those pages.
How about you? Have any of you ever kept commonplace books? Do you keep one now? How meaningful are they to you?