December 8th, 2008

Marginal Graffiti

Are you the sort of reader who jots notes in the margins of the books that you're reading? Do you underline passages that hit a raw nerve, or witty one liners that you plan to wow your co-workers with at the next office party? Have you ever written something totally unrelated -- say, a phone number or grocery list -- in a book, simply to avoid getting up from the comfortable position you're sitting in?
If so, stand tall. You've nothing to be ashamed of.
Unlike those folks who only open their books partway so as to avoid creasing the binding, you're actually enjoying your reading experience. Hell, you've taken it to the next level, making it an interactive activity. What's more, you've proven yourself to be such an avid reader that while loving and respecting literature, you've also made it into a natural extension of yourself. Think of it this way: you write stuff down on the back of your hand all of the time, don't you? The fact that you're able to draw quick police sketches of shady individuals on the inside cover of your airport read only proves that you are books and books are you.
So to hell with the haters who scoff at scuffed bindings and your corner-of-the-page flip book adaptations. They've never experienced the joy of picking up an old paperback, only to find the pin number to a long lost checking account with fourteen dollars plus interest accrued. Nor have they ever tasted their own vomit after opening up an old book of poetry and seeing their freshman year knockoffs iambic pentametered in the blank spaces.
Sure, you'll never be able to sell (or even give away) your unwanted books for fear of the cringe-worthy secrets that you wrote in the margins seeing the light of day, but honestly, is there really such a thing as an unwanted book? When I look around my dusty old mansion, piled from floor to ceiling with books that might benefit needy schoolchildren, I remind myself that once a book has been, personalized, it's a part of me. As such, the inevitable donation and/or disposal of my ballpoint battered books will be handled under the same stipulation with which I have agreed to donate my organs.
Only after I'm dead.

(For my preferred crematorium and a map to the spot where I'd like my ashes scattered, see the margin of page 152 of my copy of Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder.)

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Little Sister by Kara Dalkey

Amaiko knelt at the edge of the veranda. Her long, loose raven hair flowed like a thick brushstroke down her back. Her oyster-colored robe blended into the morning mist, as if she were part of it, or a spirit partially departed.

A young man stood in the garden at the edge of the veranda, holding her hand. He was handsome, and his bright green-and-yellow jacket stood out from the mist as though defying its attempts to mute and destroy him. As he gazed at my sister, I could tell he loved her very much. As they softly said their parting words, I wish I could hear then. Yet I was glad, in a way, that those whispers remained secret.

… the memory is even more poignant now that I know their fates.

(Dalkey, Kara. Little Sister)

Mitsuko spends her days writing poetry, and keeping herself hidden from most of the world outside of her own family. But when her sister Amaiko’s husband, Yugiri, is murdered, and her sister’s spirit attempts to follows him into death, Mitsuko must flee her sheltered life and find Yugiri’s lost soul. With a crow-demon for a companion, Mitsuko begins a dangerous journey where she must deal with gods and monsters, and save her family before it’s too late.

Little Sister is a book that I first looked at when I was thirteen at a bookstore near my middle school. It’s not until now, at twenty-three, that I’ve taken the time to read it. I don’t know what took me so long. The writing (as seen above) is absolutely beautiful, the language simplistic, yet often heavy with meaning at the same time. The character of Mitsuko, starts out the story very lady-like and almost meek. To watch her growth to a fearless woman is very satisfying. Her journey flows more like a legend of a fairy tale, than a modern day novel, making for a very different reading experience to what I’ve been picking up lately. The setting of Heian Japan is an interesting choice for a fantasy novel. Dalkey has done her homework very well, and sprinkles the story lines with bits and pieces of old Japanese culture. I found myself drawn in right away, and was very sad when it ended.

Rating: Five out of Five Stars
Similar Books:  The Inuyasha manga Series by Rumiko Takahashi. The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.
Other books I've read by this author: The Short Story  "The Lady of the Ice Garden" in Firebirds. The Short Story "The Hive" from Firebirds Rising.

Next I'm reading Death Masks by Jim Butcher.

xposted to bookish  and temporaryworlds