There were three cardinal rules I remember hearing when I grew up. These earnest exhortations were inviolate:
1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2. Children are to be seen and not heard.
3. Treat books respectfully; that entails doing three things. First, don’t break the binding. Second, return library books on time -- others may be waiting for the same book you are holding. Third, do not dog-ear the pages of books.
In an act of rebellion that surprised me, I dog-eared a page in the book I was reading today. Often, I have watched the easy confidence that some people show when they do the same. I was ready to give it a try myself. I had, in my hands, a book I found very inspirational. It was Alice Hoffman’s, The River King. I bought it at the Hospital Auxiliary’s Book Sale for $1. Half-way through my reading of the book, I realized it was going to be difficult to go back and find passages that were particularly salient to my work. The first time I made a little triangular fold at the top of the page, I decided I would fold “in” toward the page I wanted to later review. It seemed like the fold was a small arrow pointing, begging, me to return. As I progressed, I began to dog-ear confidently. The sense of destructiveness was gone. I am a writer, I need to learn how to craft words as miraculously as Alice Hoffman. I WILL DOG-EAR.
At the conclusion of the book, I returned to the first half, tracked down the passages I could recall and, yes, dog- eared those pages also. Next, I did what can be tedious, but for me, is rather pleasurable, I sat down to copying the passages into my notebook. Author, source, page, quote. Over and over. Each time, I made a small asterisk in the book next to the quote. In the event I returned. It would simplify things. I found the procedure so much more pleasurable than my typical approach. Usually, I would interrupt my reading to jot down page numbers in my pad, making notes on precisely where I would need to return. No damage to the pages. Slow and disruptive.
My dollar book had served me well. Just before putting it away, I was flipping through the pages and gasped aloud. This book that my parents had taught me was sacred because all books are sacred, this book, was signed by Alice Hoffman! The book I desecrated with dog-ears and asterisks, had passed through her hands. Oh, what have I done, I thought. Then, I reconsidered. As a writer, wouldn’t I want to inspire other writers? I would be flattered that anyone thought enough of my words to dog-ear, mark, and copy them. I have now convinced myself that Alice will, too. Thank you, Alice.