literature / Pop Culture

Chasing Texts

I’ve recently checked out what feels like half the books on Mark Twain in the University of Virginia’s main library (so…a lot). One of the most interesting things about reading/buying/using books that have fallen into other people’s possession is, of course, the marginalia. I have the strange feeling, at times, that someone else is writing the same paper I am. For every book that I check out, the precise chapter I want to look at it marked in the Table of Contents—the same slender, spidery hand appears in several different books, helpfully pointing out passages on Mark Twain and gender for my perusal. I’m starting to feel a real affection for this ghostly helper, which is a sign that I’ve been spending too much time at the library.

This brings to mind JJ Abrams’ new book, (which perhaps should more properly be called Doug Dorset’s new book?): S. The mystery novel, which I have yet to read but which is definitely on my list, is an interesting feat of publishing (it’s apparently chock-full of “ephemera” like maps drawn on napkins, tickets, etc). It looks like an old library book, and contains overlapping, interconnected stories: the “novel” itself, called Ship of Theseus, and the interactions within the margins of two readers who fall in love and solve a mystery together. Sounds like an interesting mash-up of the concepts behind Nabokov’s Pale Fire (the centrality of marginalia) and Possession (academics! mystery! ooOOh).

 

But I have no time to think of pleasure reading right now, sadly, because Henry James is consuming my life. The American Scene is no Turn of the Screw, that’s for sure. Reading it is treading water–desperate trying to hold on to thread of his slippery referents, lost in the affective mire (I realize the impertinence of metaphorizing a reflection on James, master of metaphors, but after spending hours wading through a tiny fraction of the book, I can’t help myself).

 

 

*A quick side-note: this blog has been suffering from a lack of movie reviews (one of my favorite things to write). This is because I have not had time to go to the movies in over a month (a serious problem, you guys). Hopefully this will change when we go on break, something I long for but also dread since it’ll mean that I will have had to finish all my work for the semester. Happy reading!

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