Perhaps one of the best parts about buying used books is discovering the marginalia. More often than not, these notes are quickly scribbled, desperately bored, and cryptic. Sometimes found are useful musings, upon which one can build a thesis. Other times, the previous owner will jot down persuasive little suggestions like, “Just give up,” “Rest your eyes for just a minute,” or my all-time favorite, “No one’s going to love you if you’re reading all the time…put me down and let’s dance.” Indeed, I have enjoyed finding such treasures in used books that I too have taken to noting my thoughts in the margins—mostly inexplicable warnings that both entertain and alert the reader. For example, “Stand up slowly and leave the library,” “The gold is only 300 feet away,” and my favorite, “Look behind you.”
Though he had been considered a persuasive devil’s advocate and the most influential orator during the Cheese Please Revolution of 2028, the Sam Wrinkles of today sat head in hands in the dusty library stacks, feeling saddened and irrelevant: as he leafed through the brittle pages of his once renowned “The Great Cheese Manifesto,” he saw that the school children had graffitied each of them with marginalia comprising crude drawings of genitalia, scathing diatribes against him, and curse words for curse words’ sake.
The problem with Walter’s debate is that it just sounded like so much marginalia, and any attempt to be persuasive with these unformed, idea-doodles just fell flat.