Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Underlining Words

Last weekend I found a book from my graduate school days called “The Grammar of Visual Design” by Gunther Kress. Thumbing through it, I found that the text was fairly instructive and focused on a deep discussion of images, and that my own hand had meticulously underlined several key sentences, presumably because they meant something to me at the time.

I tell you, it was like taking a time machine back to my graduate school self. Or worse, like looking in on someone else’s life. Someone I didn’t know.

For the life of me, I couldn't understand what I’d seen significant about several of these sentences. They weren’t earth shattering thesis statements in the world of visual design, nor did they make a stunning point. I just don’t know. It was a little embarrassing, quite frankly. I appear to have lost my mind since those days, and I certainly sure have lost all the good that graduate degree did me, haven’t I. I blame my whippernsnapper, who sapped me of a great deal of brain power in the first year of his life when I rarely slept, as yet to be restored (perhaps never).

But it turns out that maybe none of us know why we underline things at the time. I’m reading a book I picked off the shelf at my library last weekend called “Three Bedrooms in Chelsea” by Liz Ireland. I picked it up because the back cover copy promised wacky roommate adventures, plus the first few lines were interesting. I’m reading along, and then I see that someone at some time has underlined some lines in pencil. They are:

She wanted a little excitement. She was a writer. Well, wanted to be a writer. Writers needed excitement, didn’t they?

Okay, these are not earth-shattering lines. What was it that the person found special about these? I was fascinated. I thumbed through more of the book, looking for further inspiration. Soon, I found it-- in PEN, no less!

But that was the thing she really loved about New York. You never knew what was going to happen.

WTF!

And then again in pen:

He’d come from the West Coast after college.

WTF! WTF!

What on earth was this naughty underliner thinking (naughty cause it’s a library book)? I mean, what. There are some great lines in the book, but those are pretty simple.

Certainly I've wanted to underline things before--funny or clever or profound things. But I just can't see why the naughty underliner did those above.

Have you done this? Have you underlined stuff? Was it genius that you underlined, and why?

6 comments:

Lt. Cccyxx said...

When I underline or highlight, which I used to do a lot in grad school and not so much lately, it's usually with something specific in mind. So if I go back to the same source while thinking about a different problem, my underlining rarely serves me well. In part, I used to do it just to force myself to pay attention and engage with the material...so in that sense, it's less important what I underlined and more important that I underlined anything.

Travener said...

I used to do it a lot back when I was an English major. Now, not so much. Once in awhile, when I come across a great quote, I write it down, thinking, that'd be a great epigraph for a book someday.

Linda G. said...

I am appalled anyone would underline things in a library book! Heck, I can't even bring myself to mark up my own books in any way, but a LIBRARY BOOK? It offends my inner bibliophile. ;)

Tina Lynn said...

That was me. I did it just to mess with you.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

AHH! I missed you while I was on vacation.

I was an over-underliner. I underlined like underlining was going to out style. Like it was my JOB.

(Sometimes I would highlight entire pages...)

It's fun to look back and try to remember why I found a certain certain or passge useful/ beautiful/ important or confusing.

(ps. Over-underliners UNITE!)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I don't like to mess up books so I don't underline or highlight. However, the Kindle does have a handy dandy highlighting feature that will save the quote for you. I do that sometimes if it's something that strikes me or if I plan to do a review and want to use the quote. Almost inevitably those lines that stand out to me are the ones that make me laugh.

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