Daily Archives: March 5, 2009

Marking Books

Okay, okay, I admit it.  All my life, with library books too.  Hang head in shame.  All those turned-over-corners.  I did it.  You can blame me.

The days of embossed leather bookmarks are of course long gone and 62% of people in the poll admitted they turn the corner of the page to keep their place. “I consider that mutilation,” said Simon. “I would never do that, what’s wrong with using bookmarks – tickets, pieces of paper?”

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, admitted he had bent the truth. “My first degree was in theology, I got a 2:1 at Durham. I’m embarrassed to say I never finished the Old Testament.”

The results are based on 1,342 responses to a survey on the World Book Day website, and Douglas said that in many ways the results were reassuring. “It shows that reading has a huge cultural value in terms of the way we present ourselves as intelligent and engaged people.”

He said he was far from surprised at the turning down of pages or the 14% of people who admit writing in a library book. “I used to be a librarian and I can tell you books come back in the most horrendous condition. Turning down corners is better than surgical stockings hanging out of Tolstoy.”

From the Guardian piece, Our guilty secrets: the books we only say we’ve read.

Been there about those unfinished books, but what about book marking?  I’m curious — you librarians out there — what sort of stuff have you found being used as book marks? (Or do I really not want to know?)


Filed under Reading

A Nasty Piece of Wood


There was once upon a time…

“A king!” my little readers will instantly exclaim.

No, children, you are wrong. There was once upon a time a piece of wood.

The above is from the beginning of the NYRB Classic edition of Carlo Collodi’s Pinochio, an edition I learned about from John Power’s very interesting NPR essay, “Collodi’s Brooding, Subversive ‘Pinochio.'” A tale that has long intrigued me, I’ve a number of beautifully illustrated editions. And it is a tale, as Powers notes, that can surprise as Collodi’s wooden boy is nothing like Disney’s.  The title character is accurately described in the  NYRB catalog as'”… one of the great subversives of the written page, a madcap genius hurtled along at the pleasure and mercy of his desires, a renegade who in many ways resembles his near contemporary Huck Finn.” They go on to write:

Pinocchio the novel, no less than Pinocchio the character, is one of the great inventions of modern literature. A sublime anomaly, the book merges the traditions of the picaresque, of street theater, and of folk and fairy tales into a work that is at once adventure, satire, and a powerful enchantment that anticipates surrealism and magical realism. Thronged with memorable characters and composed with the fluid but inevitable logic of a dream, Pinocchio is an endlessly fascinating work that is essential equipment for life.

I completely agree with all save the last bit (as I think you can do just fine in life without having read any story); to read it today is to be thrown into a truly bizarre world of story.  Originally written as a serial it shows — Pinocchio lurches from one adventure to another. He’s a pretty nasty piece of live wood for much of the book, mean and often quite deserving of the consequences of his bad behavior. He whines and is repeatedly forgiven by some adults (say that fairy and, of course, the poor carpenter) who love him unreservedly — those perfect parents who love their child no matter how he behaves.  A completely fascinating work of literature.

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Filed under Children's Literature, Classic