Dear blogging friends,
I am one for reading more than one book at the same time. Don’t judge me! I am strictly monogamous with my husband, thank you very much, I can afford a less honourable behaviour with books. It’s not just tiredness and lack of concentration that make me drop an author, pick up another and return to the first, or second, or third one when more alert. It’s my mood, the type font and colour (grey is not the new black), the storyline, the stage of the story. Apart from my frequent book swaps, I am an otherwise respectful reader who wouldn’t even dare rid herself of any of her books since the 1990s.
Respectful up to a point, the point being exasperation towards a new author I expected more of. There, I said it. If an author lets me down, I will become a vandal. I will arm myself with the sharpest pencil at hand and attack the book’s margins with notes summing up my varying states of mind: from despair at the lack of story line, to disgust at an unfortunate turn of phrase, to boredom and incredulity that the book has actually been published.
Vandalising is highly liberating. Put yourself in my shoes: I’m as conventional and law abiding as you can get; writing on a book’s margin is, for my standards, subversive. In fact, Subversive with a capital s. Writing cheeky notes acquires the same status of socio-political and cultural dissent! In my mind I’m a rebel, and one who is even beginning to contemplate making a profit out of her own vandalising acts. If I struggle with a book, there may be somebody else who struggles too. What if I sold my vandalised copy on the second hand market, to a niche readership who will find the occasional comment more entertaining than the book?
Let me test some of my acts of vandalism with you. I came home one day with book 5 (yes, number 5) of Karl Ove Knausgaard “Some rain must fall – My struggles: 5”, leaving the first 4 behind. After a few pages I had already tackled the title, crossing out the “my” in “My struggles” and replacing it with “no, this is now my struggles”. Hilarious.
Knausgaard seems keener on word count than content. He achieves this by tediously describing mundane acts, such as putting his shoes on (no, wait, first one shoe, than the other, after of course having chosen a matching pair of socks and slipped those on too, first onto the right foot and then the left…you get the gist). You will find plenty of “Dear Lord!!” and “Arghhh” and “Kill me, no, kill him!” scribbled next to the underlined descriptions of useless pieces of information.
And then there are, of course, the author’s recurrent expressions of disgust towards the act of writing itself. Yes, really, despite the simple plot of the book being about his struggle to make it as a writer. Look at this gem: “I went to bed and slept for two hours. When I woke dusk was falling…the thought of writing still repelled me so I put on my shoes and went outside.” What else could I do but to draw a seriously shocked emojy (emoticon for our US friends) on the margins? It’s not just a round little face with big eyes. It’s Munch’s chilling The Scream, only a little less daunting for comedy effect and in black and white. A real treat for those sharing my dwindling interest in Knausgaard’s never ending writer’s block, “summarised” over 653 pages. I just love the absurdity of extensively writing about not being able to write that this Struggles number 5 managed, being sold to an agent and a publisher and to the English speaking market through an excellent translation. I should, out of politeness, enquire after the translator’s mental health, or at least hope that the money was GOOD.
I’m opening the bids for my (unfinished and hence in excellent conditions) vandalised copy at £0.00001, plus postage and packaging. Write to me privately to make an offer. You won’t be disappointed.
Are you a secret vandal? Don’t be shy and leave your comments. They are safe with me.